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Title: Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag, Volume 4 - My Girls, etc.
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Language: English
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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 "Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag, Volume 4 - My Girls, etc." ***

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[Frontispiece: "Promise that I may make the flowers you wear on your
wedding-day," whispered Lizzie, kissing the kind hand held out to help
her rise--PAGE 85.]



[Illustration: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN OMNIBUS.--_Page_ 187.]



  AUNT JO's SCRAP-BAG.

  MY GIRLS, ETC.


[Illustration: Scrap Bag Vol. IV]


  BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT,

  AUTHOR OF "LITTLE WOMEN," "AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL," "LITTLE MEN,"
  "HOSPITAL SKETCHES," "EIGHT COUSINS," ETC.



  BOSTON:
  ROBERTS BROTHERS.
  1878.



  _Copyright,_
  BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT.
  1877.



  _Cambridge:
  Press of John Wilson & Son._



  CONTENTS.

  I. My Girls
  II. Lost in a London Fog
  III. The Boys' Joke, and who got the best of it
  IV. Roses and Forget-me-nots
  V. Old Major
  VI. What the Girls did
  VII. Little Neighbors
  VIII. Marjorie's Three Gifts
  IX. Patty's Place
  X. The Autobiography of an Omnibus
  XI. Red Tulips
  XII. A Happy Birthday



AUNT JO'S SCRAP-BAG.



I.

MY GIRLS.

Once upon a time I wrote a little account of some of the agreeable boys
I had known, whereupon the damsels reproached me with partiality, and
begged me to write about them.  I owned the soft impeachment, and
promised that I would not forget them if I could find any thing worth
recording.

That was six years ago, and since then I have been studying girls
whenever I had an opportunity, and have been both pleased and surprised
to see how much they are doing for themselves now that their day has
come.

Poor girls always had my sympathy and respect, for necessity soon makes
brave women of them if they have any strength or talent in them; but
the well-to-do girls usually seemed to me like pretty butterflies,
leading easy, aimless lives when the world was full of work which ought
to be done.

Making a call in New York, I got a little lesson, which caused me to
change my opinion, and further investigation proved that the rising
generation was wide awake, and bound to use the new freedom well.
Several young girls, handsomely dressed, were in the room, and I
thought, of course, that they belonged to the butterfly species; but on
asking one of them what she was about now school was over, I was much
amazed to hear her reply, "I am reading law with my uncle."  Another
said, "I am studying medicine;" a third, "I devote myself to music,"
and the fourth was giving time, money, and heart to some of the best
charities of the great city.

So my pretty butterflies proved to be industrious bees, making real
honey, and I shook hands with sincere respect, though they did wear
jaunty hats; my good opinion being much increased by the fact that not
one was silly enough to ask for an autograph.

Since then I have talked with many girls, finding nearly all intent on
some noble end, and as some of them have already won the battle, it may
be cheering to those still in the thick of the fight, or just putting
on their armor, to hear how these sisters prospered in their different
ways.

Several of them are girls no longer; but as they are still unmarried, I
like to call them by their old name, because they are so young at
heart, and have so beautifully fulfilled the promise of their youth,
not only by doing, but being excellent and admirable women.

A is one in whom I take especial pride.  Well-born, pretty, and bright,
she, after a year or two of society, felt the need of something more
satisfactory, and, following her taste, decided to study medicine.
Fortunately she had a father who did not think marriage the only thing
a woman was created for, but was ready to help his daughter in the work
she had chosen, merely desiring her to study as faithfully and
thoroughly as a man, if she undertook the profession that she might be
an honor to it.  A was in earnest, and studied four years, visiting the
hospitals of London, Paris, and Prussia; being able to command private
lessons when the doors of public institutions were shut in her face
because she was a woman.  More study and work at home, and then she had
the right to accept the post of resident physician in a hospital for
women.  Here she was so successful that her outside practice increased
rapidly, and she left the hospital to devote herself to patients of all
sorts, beloved and valued for the womanly sympathy and cheerfulness
that went hand in hand with the physician's skill and courage.

When I see this woman, young still, yet so independent, successful, and
contented, I am very proud of her; not only because she has her own
house, with a little adopted daughter to make it home-like, her
well-earned reputation, and a handsome income, but because she has so
quietly and persistently carried out the plan of her life, undaunted by
prejudice, hard work, or the solitary lot she chose.  She may well be
satisfied; for few women receive so much love and confidence, few
mothers have so many children to care for, few physicians are more
heartily welcomed and trusted, few men lead a freer, nobler life, than
this happy woman, who lives for others and never thinks of any fame but
that which is the best worth having, a place in the hearts of all who
know her.

B is another of my successful girls; but her task has been a harder one
than A's, because she was as poor as she was ambitious.  B is an
artist, loving beauty more than any thing else in the world; ready to
go cold and hungry, shabby and lonely, if she can only see, study, and
try to create the loveliness she worships.  It was so even as a child;
for flowers and fairies grew on her slate when she should have been
doing sums, painted birds and butterflies perched on her book-covers,
Flaxman's designs, and familiar faces appeared on the walls of her
little room, and clay gods and goddesses were set upon the rough altar
of her moulding board, to be toiled over and adored till they were
smashed in the "divine despair" all true artists feel.

But winged things will fly sooner or later, and patient waiting,
persistent effort, only give sweetness to the song and strength to the
flight when the door of the cage opens at last.  So, after years of
hard work with pencil and crayon, plaster and clay, oil and water
colors, the happy hour came for B when the dream of her life was
realized; for one fine spring day, with a thousand dollars in her
pocket and a little trunk holding more art materials than clothes, she
sailed away, alone, but brave and beaming, for a year in England.

She knew now what she wanted and where to find it, and "a heavenly
year" followed, though to many it would have seemed a very dull one.
All day and every day but the seventh was spent in the National
Gallery, copying Turner's pictures in oil and water colors.  So busy,
so happy, so wrapt up in delightsome work, that food and sleep seemed
impertinencies, friends were forgotten, pleasuring had no charms,
society no claims, and life was one joyful progress from the blue
Giudecca to the golden Sol de Venezia, or the red glow of the old
Temeraire.  "Van Tromp entering the mouth of the Texel" was more
interesting to her than any political event transpiring in the world
without; ancient Rome eclipsed modern London, and the roar of a great
city could not disturb the "Datur Hora Quieti" which softly grew into
beauty under her happy brush.

A spring-tide trip to Stratford, Warwick, and Kenilworth was the only
holiday she allowed herself; and even this was turned to profit; for,
lodging cheaply at the Shakespearian baker's, she roamed about,
portfolio in hand, booking every lovely bit she saw, regardless of sun
or rain, and bringing away a pictorial diary of that week's trip which
charmed those who beheld it, and put money in her purse.

When the year was out, home came the artist, with half her little
fortune still unspent, and the one trunk nearly as empty as it went,
but there were two great boxes of pictures, and a golden saint in a
coffin five feet long, which caused much interest at the Custom House,
but was passed duty-free after its owner had displayed it with
enthusiastic explanations of its charms.

"They are only attempts and studies, you know, and I dare say you'll
all laugh at them; but I feel that I _can_ in time _do_ something, so
my year has not been wasted," said the modest damsel, as she set forth
her work, glorifying all the house with Venetian color, English
verdure, and, what was better still, the sunshine of a happy heart.

But to B's great surprise and delight, people did not laugh; they
praised and bought, and ordered more, till, before she knew it, several
thousand dollars were at her command, and the way clear to the
artist-life she loved.

To some who watched her, the sweetest picture she created was the free
art-school which B opened in a very humble way; giving her books,
copies, casts, time, and teaching to all who cared to come.  For with
her, as with most who _earn_ their good things, the generous desire to
share them with others is so strong it is sure to blossom out in some
way, blessing as it has been blessed.  Slowly, but surely, success
comes to the patient worker, and B, being again abroad for more
lessons, paints one day a little still life study so well that her
master says she "does him honor," and her mates advise her to send it
to the Salon.  Never dreaming that it will be accepted, B, for the joke
of it, puts her study in a plain frame, and sends it, with the eight
thousand others, only two thousand of which are received.

To her amazement the little picture is accepted, hung "on the line" and
noticed in the report.  Nor is that all, the Committee asked leave to
exhibit it at another place, and desired an autobiographical sketch of
the artist.  A more deeply gratified young woman it would be hard to
find than B, as she now plans the studio she is to open soon, and the
happy independent life she hopes to lead in it, for she has earned her
place, and, after years of earnest labor, is about to enter in and
joyfully possess it.

There was C,--alas, that I must write _was_! beautiful, gifted, young,
and full of the lovely possibilities which give some girls such an
indescribable charm.  Placed where it would have been natural for her
to have made herself a young queen of society, she preferred something
infinitely better, and so quietly devoted herself to the chosen work
that very few guessed she had any.

I had known her for some years before I found it out, and then only by
accident; but I never shall forget the impression it made upon me.  I
had called to get a book, and something led me to speak of the sad case
of a poor girl lately made known to me, when C, with a sudden
brightening of her whole face, said, warmly, "I wish I had known it, I
could have helped her."

"You? what can a happy creature like you know about such things?" I
answered, surprised.

"That is my work."  And in a few words which went to my heart, the
beautiful girl, sitting in her own pretty room, told me how, for a long
time, she and others had stepped out of their safe, sunshiny homes to
help and save the most forlorn of our sister women.  So quietly, so
tenderly, that only those saved knew who did it, and such loyal silence
kept, that, even among the friends, the names of these unfortunates
were not given, that the after life might be untroubled by even a look
of reproach or recognition.

"Do not speak of this," she said.  "Not that I am ashamed; but we are
able to work better in a private way, and want no thanks for what we
do."

I kept silence till her share of the womanly labor of love, so
delicately, dutifully done, was over.  But I never saw that sweet face
afterward without thinking how like an angel's it must have seemed to
those who sat in darkness till she came to lift them up.

Always simply dressed, this young sister of charity went about her
chosen task when others of her age and position were at play; happy in
it, and unconsciously preaching a little sermon by her lovely life.
Another girl, who spent her days reading novels and eating
confectionery, said to me, in speaking of C,--

"Why doesn't she dress more?  She is rich enough, and so handsome I
should think she would."

Taking up the reports of several charities which lay on my table, I
pointed to C's name among the generous givers, saying,--

"Perhaps _that_ is the reason;" and my visitor went away with a new
idea of economy in her frivolous head, a sincere respect for the
beautiful girl who wore the plain suit and loved her neighbor better
than herself.

A short life; but one so full of sweetness that all the bitter waters
of the pitiless sea cannot wash its memory away, and I am sure that
white soul won heaven sooner for the grateful prayers of those whom she
had rescued from a blacker ocean.

D was one of a large family all taught at home, and all of a dramatic
turn; so, with a witty father to write the plays, an indulgent mother
to yield up her house to destruction, five boys and seven girls for the
_corps dramatique_, it is not to be wondered at that D set her heart on
being an actress.

Having had the honor to play the immortal Pillicoddy on that famous
stage, I know whereof I write, and what glorious times that little
company of brothers and sisters had safe at home.  But D burned for a
larger field, and at length found a chance to appear on the real boards
with several of her sisters.  Being very small and youthful in
appearance they played children's parts, fairies in spectacles and
soubrettes in farce or vaudeville.  Once D had a benefit, and it was a
pretty sight to see the long list of familiar names on the bill; for
the brothers and sisters all turned out and made a jolly play of
"Parents and Guardians," as well as a memorable sensation in the
"Imitations" which they gave.

One would think that the innocent little girls might have come to harm
singing in the chorus of operas, dancing as peasants, or playing "Nan
the good-for-nothing."  But the small women were so dignified,
well-mannered, and intent on their duties that no harm befell them.
Father and brothers watched over them; there were few temptations for
girls who made "Mother" their confidante, and a happy home was a safe
refuge from the unavoidable annoyances to which all actresses are
exposed.

D tried the life, found it wanting, left it, and put her experiences
into a clever little book, then turned to less pleasant but more
profitable work.  The father, holding a public office, was allowed two
clerks; but, finding that his clear-headed daughter could do the work
of both easily and well, gave her the place, and she earned her
thousand a year, going to her daily duty looking like a school girl;
while her brain was busy with figures and statistics which would have
puzzled many older heads.

This she did for years, faithfully earning her salary, and meanwhile
playing her part in the domestic drama; for real tragedy and comedy
came into it as time went on; the sisters married or died, brothers won
their way up, and more than one Infant Phenomenon appeared on the
household stage.

But through all changes my good D was still "leading lady," and now,
when the mother is gone, the other birds all flown, she remains in the
once overflowing nest, the stay and comfort of her father, unspoiled by
either poverty or wealth, unsaddened by much sorrow, unsoured by
spinsterhood.  A wise and witty little woman, and a happy one too,
though the curly locks are turning gray; for the three Christian
graces, faith, hope, and charity, abide with her to the end.

Of E I know too little to do justice to her success; but as it has been
an unusual one, I cannot resist giving her a place here, although I
never saw her, and much regret that now I never can, since she has gone
to plead her own cause before the wise Judge of all.

Her story was told me by a friend, and made so strong an impression
upon me that I wrote down the facts while they were fresh in my mind.
A few words, added since her death, finish the too brief record of her
brave life.

At fourteen, E began to read law with a legal friend.  At eighteen she
began to practise, and did so well that this friend offered her half
his business, which was very large.  But she preferred to stand alone,
and in two years had a hundred cases of all sorts in different courts,
and never lost one.

In a certain court-room, where she was the only woman present, her
bearing was so full of dignity that every one treated her with respect.
Her opponent, a shrewd old lawyer, made many sharp or impertinent
remarks, hoping to anger her and make her damage her cause by some loss
of self-control.  But she merely looked at him with such a wise, calm
smile, and answered with such unexpected wit and wisdom, that the man
was worsted and young Portia won her suit, to the great satisfaction of
the spectators, men though they were.

She used to say that her success was owing to hard work,--too hard, I
fear, if she often studied eighteen hours a day.  She asked no help or
patronage, only fair play, and one cannot but regret that it ever was
denied a creature who so womanfully proved her claim to it.

A friend says, "she was a royal girl, and did all her work in a royal
way.  She broke down suddenly, just as she had passed the last hostile
outpost; just as she had begun to taste the ineffable sweetness of
peace and rest, following a relative life-time of battle and toil."

But, short as her career has been, not one brave effort is wasted,
since she has cleared the way for those who come after her, and proved
that women have not only the right but the ability to sit upon the
bench as well as stand at the bar of justice.

Last, but by no means least, is F, because her success is the most
wonderful of all, since every thing was against her from the first, as
you will see when I tell her little story.

Seven or eight years ago, a brave woman went down into Virginia with a
friend, and built a school-house for the freed people, who were utterly
forlorn; because, though the great gift of liberty was theirs, it was
so new and strange they hardly understood how to use it.  These good
women showed them, and among the first twenty children who began the
school, which now has hundreds of pupils, white as well as black, came
little F.

Ignorant, ragged and wild, yet with such an earnest, resolute face that
she attracted the attention of her teachers at once, and her eagerness
to learn touched their hearts; for it was a hard fight with her to get
an education, because she could only be spared now and then from
corn-planting, pulling fodder, toting water, oyster-shucking or
grubbing the new land.

She must have made good use of those "odd days," for she was among the
first dozen who earned a pictorial pocket-handkerchief for learning the
multiplication table, and a proud child was F when she bore home the
prize.  Rapidly the patient little fingers learned to write on the
first slate she ever saw, and her whole heart went into the task of
reading the books which opened a new world to her.

The instinct of progression was as strong in her as the love of light
in a plant, and when the stone was lifted away, she sprang up and grew
vigorously.

At last the chance to go North and earn something, which all freed
people desire, came to F; and in spite of many obstacles she made the
most of it.  At the very outset she had to fight for a place in the
steamer, since the captain objected to her being admitted to the cabin
on account of her color; though any lady could take her black maid in
without any trouble.  But the friend with whom she travelled insisted
on F's rights, and won them by declaring that if the child was
condemned to pass the night on deck, she would pass it with her.

F watched the contest with breathless interest, as well she might; for
this was her first glimpse of the world outside the narrow circle where
her fourteen years had been spent.  Poor little girl! there seemed to
be no place for her anywhere; and I cannot help wondering what her
thoughts were, as she sat alone in the night, shut out from among her
kind for no fault but the color of her skin.

What could she think of "white folks" religion, intelligence, and
courtesy?  Fortunately she had one staunch friend beside her to keep
her faith in human justice alive, and win a little place for her among
her fellow beings.  The captain for very shame consented at last, and F
felt that she was truly free when she stepped out of the lonely
darkness of the night into the light and shelter of the cabin, a
harmless little girl, asking only a place to lay her head.

That was the first experience, and it made a deep impression on her;
but those that followed were pleasanter, for nowhere in the free North
was she refused her share of room in God's world.

I saw her in New York, and even before I learned her story I was
attracted to the quiet, tidy, door-girl by the fact that she was always
studying as she sat in the noisy hall of a great boarding-house,
keeping her books under her chair and poring over them at every leisure
moment.  Kindly people, touched by her patient efforts, helped her
along; and one of the prettiest sights I saw in the big city was a
little white girl taking time from her own sports to sit on the stairs
and hear F recite.  I think Bijou Heron will never play a sweeter part
than that, nor have a more enthusiastic admirer than F was when we went
together to see the child-actress play "The Little Treasure" for
charity.

To those who know F it seems as if a sort of miracle had been wrought,
to change in so short a time a forlorn little Topsy into this
intelligent, independent, ambitious girl, who not only supports and
educates herself, but sends a part of her earnings home, and writes
such good letters to her mates that they are read aloud in school.
Here is a paragraph from one which was a part of the Christmas festival
last year:--

"I have now seen what a great advantage it is to have an education.  I
begin to feel the good of the little I know, and I am trying hard every
day to add more to it.  Most every child up here from ten to twelve
years old can read and write, colored as well as white.  And if you
were up here, I think you would be surprised to see such little bits of
children going to school with their arms full of books.  I do hope you
will all learn as much as you can; for an Education is a great thing."

I wonder how many white girls of sixteen would do any better, if as
well, as this resolute F, bravely making her way against fate and
fortune, toward the useful, happy womanhood we all desire.  I know she
will find friends, and I trust that if she ever knocks at the door of
any college, asking her sisters to let her in, they will not disgrace
themselves by turning their backs upon her; but prove themselves worthy
of their blessings, by showing them Christian gentlewomen.

Here are my six girls; doctor, artist, philanthropist, actress, lawyer,
and freed woman; only a few among the hundreds who work and win, and
receive their reward, seen of men or only known to God.  Perhaps some
other girl reading of these may take heart again, and travel on cheered
by their example; for the knowledge of what has been done often proves
wonderfully inspiring to those who long to do.

I felt this strongly when I went to a Woman's Congress not long ago;
for on the stage was a noble array of successful women, making the
noblest use of their talents in discussing all the questions which
should interest and educate their sex.  I was particularly proud of the
senators from Massachusetts, and, looking about the crowded house to
see how the audience stirred and glowed under their inspiring words, I
saw a good omen for the future.

Down below were grown people, many women, and a few men; but up in the
gallery, like a garland of flowers, a circle of girlish faces looked
down eager-eyed; listening, with quick smiles and tears, to the wit or
eloquence of those who spoke, dropping their school books to clap
heartily when a good point was made, and learning better lessons in
those three days than as many years of common teaching could give them.

It was close and crowded down below, dusty and dark; but up in the
gallery the fresh October air blew in, mellow sunshine touched the
young heads, there was plenty of room to stir, and each day the garland
seemed to blossom fuller and brighter, showing how the interest grew.
There they were, the future Mary Livermores, Ednah Cheneys, Julia
Howes, Maria Mitchells, Lucy Stones, unconsciously getting ready to
play their parts on the wider stage which those pioneers have made
ready for them, before gentler critics, a wiser public, and more
enthusiastic friends.

Looking from the fine gray heads which adorned the shadowy platform, to
the bright faces up aloft, I wanted to call out,--

"Look, listen, and learn, my girls; then, bringing your sunshine and
fresh air, your youth and vigor, come down to fill nobly the places of
these true women, and earn for yourselves the same success which will
make their names long loved and honored in the land."



II.

LOST IN A LONDON FOG.

We had been to tea with some friends in Shaftesbury Terrace, and were
so busy with our gossip that the evening slipped away unperceived till
the clock struck half-past ten.  We were two lone ladies, and had meant
to leave early, as we were strangers in London and had some way to
drive; so our dismay on discovering the lateness of the hour may be
imagined.

We had not engaged a carriage to come for us, knowing that a cab-stand
was near by, and that a cab would be much cheaper than the snug
broughams ladies usually secure for evening use.

Out flew the little maid to get us a cab, and we hurried on our wraps
eager to be gone.  But we waited and waited, for Mary Ann did not come,
and we were beginning to think something had happened to her, when she
came hurrying back to say that all the cabs were gone from the
neighboring stand, and she had run to another, where, after some delay,
she had secured a hansom.

Now it is not considered quite the thing for ladies to go about in
hansom cabs, without a gentleman to accompany them, especially in the
evening; but being independent Americans, and impatient to relieve our
weary hostess of our presence, we said nothing, but bundled in, gave
the address,--24 Colville Gardens, Bayswater,--and away we went.

A dense fog had come on, and nothing was visible but a short bit of
muddy street, and lamps looming dimly through the mist.  Our driver was
as husky as if it had got into his throat, and the big, white horse
looked absolutely ghostly as he went off at the breakneck pace which
seems as natural to the London cab-horse as mud is to London streets.

"Isn't it fun to go rattling round in this all-out-of-doors style,
through a real London fog?" said my sister, who was now enjoying her
first visit to this surprising city.

"That remains to be seen.  For my part, I'd give a good deal to be shut
up, dry and decent, in a four-wheeler, this is so very rowdy," I
returned, feeling much secret anxiety as to the propriety of our
proceeding.

"You are sure you gave the man the right direction?" I asked, after we
had driven through what seemed a wilderness of crescents, terraces,
gardens, and squares.

"Of course I did, and he answered, 'All right, mum.'  Shall I ask him
if it is all right?" said M, who dearly liked to poke up the little
door in the roof, which was our only means of communication with the
burly, breezy cherub who sat up aloft to endanger the life of his fare.

"You may, for we have ridden long enough to go to St. Paul's."

Up went the little door, and M asked blandly,--

"Are you sure you are going right, driver?"

"No, mum, I ain't," was the cheering response breathed through the
trap-door (as M called it) in a hoarse whisper.

"I told you where to go, and it is time we were there."

"I'm new come to London, mum, and ain't used to these parts
yet,"--began the man.

"Good gracious! so are we; and I'm sure I can't tell you any thing more
than the name and number I have already given.  You'd better ask the
first policeman we meet," cried I, with the foreboding fear heavier
than before.

"All right, mum," and down went the little door, and off rattled the
cab.

My irrepressible sister burst out laughing at the absurdity of our
position.

"Don't laugh, M, for mercy's sake!  It's no joke to be wandering about
this great city at eleven o'clock at night in a thick fog, with a tipsy
driver," I croaked, with a warning pinch.

"He isn't tipsy, only stupid, as we are, not to have engaged a carriage
to come for us."

"He is tipsy; I smelt gin in his breath, and he is half asleep up
there, I've no doubt, for we have passed one, if not two policemen, I'm
sure."

"Nonsense! you wouldn't know your own father in this mist.  Let Jarvey
alone and he will bring us safely home."

"We shall see," I answered, grimly, as a splash of mud lit upon my
nose, and the cab gave a perilous lurch in cutting round a sharp corner.

Did any one ever find a policeman when he was wanted?  I never did,
though they are as thick as blackberries when they are not needed.

On and on we went, but not a felt helmet appeared, and never did
escaping fugitive look more eagerly for the North Star than I did for a
gleaming badge on a blue coat.

"There's a station!  I shall stop and ask, for I'm not going slamming
and splashing about any longer.  Hi there, driver!" and I poked up the
door with a vigor that would have startled the soundest sleeper.

"Ay, ay, mum," came the wheezy whisper, more wheezy than ever.

"Stop at this station-house and hail some one.  We _must_ get home, and
you _must_ ask the way."

"All right, mum," came back the hollow mockery conveyed in those
exasperating words.

We did stop, and a star did appear, when I, with all the dignity I
could muster, stated the case and asked for aid.

"Pleeseman X," gave it civilly; but I greatly fear he did not believe
that the muddy-faced woman with a croaky voice, and the blonde damsel
with curls, long earrings and light gloves, were really respectable
members of the glorious American Republic.

I felt this and I could not blame him; so, thanking him with a bow
which would have done credit to the noblest of my Hancock and Quincy
ancestors, we went on again.

Alas, alas, it was all go on and no stop; for although our driver had
responded briskly, "Ay, ay, sir," to the policeman's inquiry, "You know
your way now, don't you?" he evidently did not know it, and the white
horse went steadily up and down the long, wet streets, like a phantom
steed in a horrid dream.

Things really were becoming serious; midnight was approaching.  I had
not the remotest idea where we were, and the passers-by became more and
more infrequent, lights vanished from windows, few cabs were seen and
the world was evidently going to bed.  The fog was rapidly
extinguishing my voice, and anxiety quenching my courage.  M's curls
hung limp and wild about her face, and even M's spirits began to fail.

"I am afraid we _are_ lost," she whispered in my ear.

"Not a doubt of it."

"The man _must_ be tipsy, after all."

"That is evident."

"What _will_ people think of us?"

"That we are tipsy also."

"What _shall_ we do?"

"Nothing but sit here and drift about till morning.  The man has
probably tumbled off; this dreadful horse is evidently wound up and
won't stop till he has run down; the fog is increasing, and nothing
will bring us to a halt but a collision with some other shipwrecked
Yankee, as lost and miserable as we are."

"Oh, L, don't be sarcastic and grim now!  Do exert yourself and land
somewhere.  Go to a hotel.  This horrid man must know where the Langham
is."

"I doubt if he knows any thing, and I am sure that eminently
respectable house would refuse to admit such a pair of frights as we
are, at this disreputable hour.  No, we must go on till something
happens to save us.  We have discovered the secret of perpetual motion,
and that is some comfort."

M groaned, I laughed, the ghostly horse sneezed, and I think the driver
snored.

When things are pretty comfortable I am apt to croak, but when every
thing is tottering on the verge of annihilation I usually feel rather
jolly.  Such being the perversity of my fallen nature, I began to enjoy
myself at this period, and nearly drove poor M out of her wits by awful
or whimsical suggestions and pictures of our probable fate.

It was so very absurd that I really could not help seeing the funny
side of the predicament, and M was the best fun of all, she looked so
like a dilapidated Ophelia with her damp locks, a blue rigolette all
awry, her white gloves tragically clasped, and her pale countenance
bespattered with the mud that lay thick on the wooden boot and flew
freely from the wheels.

I had my laugh out and then tried to mend matters.  What could we do?
My first impulse was to stir up the sleeping wretch above, and this I
did by energetically twitching the reins that hung loosely before our
noses like the useless rudder of this lost ship.

"Young man, if you don't wake up and take us to Colville Gardens as
quickly as possible, I shall report you to-morrow.  I've got your
number, and I shall get my friend, Mr. Peter Taylor, of Aubrey House,
to attend to the matter.  He's an M.P., and will see that you are fined
for attempting to drive a cab when you know nothing of London."

I fear that most of this impressive harangue was lost, owing to the
noise of the wheels and the feebleness of my nearly extinguished voice;
but it had some effect, for though the man did not seem scared by the
threatened wrath of an M.P., he did feel his weak point and try to
excuse it, for he answered in a gruffy, apologetic tone,--

"Who's a-goin' to know any thing in such a blessed fog as this?  Most
cabbies wouldn't try to drive at no price, but I'll do my best, mum."

"Very well.  Do you know where we are now?" I demanded.

"Blest if I do!"

He didn't say "blest"--quite the reverse;--but I forgave him, for he
really did seem to be making an effort, having had his nap out.  An
impressive pause followed, then M had an inspiration.

"Look, there's a respectable man just going into his house from that
four-wheeled cab.  Let us hail the whole concern, and get help of some
sort."

I gave the order, and, eager to be rid of us at any price, our man
rattled us up to the door at which a gray-haired gentleman was settling
with his driver.

Bent on clutching this spar of salvation, I burst out of our cab and
hastened up to the astonished pair.  What I said I don't know, but
vaguely remember jumbling into my appeal all the names of all the
celebrated and respectable persons whom I knew on both sides of the
water, for I felt that my appearance was entirely against me, and
really expected to be told to go about my business.

John Bull, however, had pity upon me, and did his best for us, like a
man and a brother.

"Take this cab, madam; the driver knows what he is about, and will see
you safely home.  I'll attend to the other fellow," said the worthy
man, politely ignoring my muddy visage and agitated manners.

Murmuring blessings on his head, we skipped into the respectable
four-wheeler, and in a burst of confidence I offered Mr. Bull my purse
to defray the expenses of our long drive.

"Rash woman, you'll never see your money again!" cried M, hiding her
Roman earrings and clutching her Etruscan locket, prepared for highway
robbery if not murder.

I did see my purse again and my money, also; for that dear old
gentleman paid our miserable cabby out of his own pocket (as I found
afterwards), and with a final gruff "All right!" the pale horse and his
beery driver vanished in the mist.  It is, and always will be my firm
belief that it was a phantom cab, and that it is still revolving
ceaselessly about London streets, appearing and disappearing through
the fog, to be hailed now and then by some fated passenger, who is
whisked to and fro, bewildered and forlorn, till rescued, when ghostly
steed and phantom cab vanish darkly.

"Now you will be quite safe, ladies;" and the good old gentleman
dismissed us with a paternal smile.

With a feeling of relief I fell back, exhausted by our tribulations.

"I know now how the wandering Jew felt," said M, after a period of
repose.

"I don't wish to croak, dear; but if this man does not stop soon, I
shall begin to think we have gently stepped out of the frying-pan into
the fire.  Unless we were several miles out of our way, we ought to
arrive _somewhere_," I responded, flattening my nose against the pane,
though I literally could not see one inch before that classical feature.

"Well, I'm so tired, I shall go to sleep, whatever happens, and you can
wake me up when it is time to scream or run," said M, settling herself
for a doze.

I groaned dismally, and registered a vow to spend all my substance in
future on the most elegant and respectable broughams procurable for
money, with a gray-haired driver pledged to temperance, and a stalwart
footman armed with a lantern, pistol, directory, and map of London.

All of a sudden the cab stopped; the driver, not being a fixture,
descended, and coming to the window, said, civilly,--

"The fog is so thick, mum, I'm not quite sure if I'm right, but this is
Colville Square."

"Don't know any such place.  Colville Gardens is what we want.  There's
a church at the end, and trees in the middle, and "--

"No use, mum, describin' it, for I can't see a thing.  But the Gardens
can't be far off, so I'll try again."

"We never shall find it, so we had better ask the man to take us at
once to some station, work-house, or refuge till morning," remarked M,
in such a tone of sleepy resignation that I shook her on the spot.

Another jaunt up and down, fog getting thicker, night later, one woman
sleepier and the other crosser every minute, but still no haven hove in
sight.  Presently the cab stopped with a decided bump against the
curb-stone, and the driver reappeared, saying, with respectful
firmness,--

"My horse is beat out, and it's past my time for turning in, so if this
ain't the place I shall have to give it up, mum."

"It is not the place," I answered, getting out with the calmness of
despair.

"There's a light in that house and a woman looking out.  Go and ask her
where we are," suggested M, waking from her doze.

Ready now for any desperate measure, I rushed up the steps, tried
vainly to read the number, but could not, and rang the bell with the
firm determination to stay in that house till morning at any cost.

Steps came running down, the door flew open, and I was electrified at
beholding the countenance of my own buxom landlady.

"My dear soul, where 'ave you been?" she cried, as I stood staring at
her, dumb with surprise and relief.

"From the Crystal Palace to Greenwich, I believe.  Come in, M, and ask
the man what the fare is," I answered, dropping into a hall chair, and
feeling as I imagine Robinson Crusoe did when he got home.

Of course that civil cabby cheated me abominably.  I knew it at the
time, but never protested; for I was so glad and grateful at landing
safely I should have paid a pound if he had asked it.

Next day we were heroines, and at breakfast alternately thrilled and
convulsed the other boarders by a recital of our adventures.  But the
"strong-minded Americans" got so well laughed at that they took great
care never to ride in hansom cabs again, or get lost in the fog.



III.

THE BOYS' JOKE, AND WHO GOT THE BEST OF IT.

It was the day before Christmas, and grandpa's big house was swarming
with friends and relations, all brimful of spirits and bent on having a
particularly good time.  Dinner was over and a brief lull ensued,
during which the old folks took naps, the younger ones sat chatting
quietly, while the children enlivened the day by a quarrel.

It had been brewing for some time, and during that half hour the storm
broke.  You see, the boys felt injured because for a week at least the
girls had been too busy to pay the slightest attention to them and
their affairs,--and what's the good of having sisters and cousins if
they don't make themselves useful and agreeable to a fellow?  What made
it particularly hard to bear was the fact that there was a secret about
it, and all they could discover was that _they_ were to have no part in
the fun.  This added to their wrath, for they could have borne the
temporary neglect, if the girls had been making something nice for
them; but they were not, and the irate lads were coolly informed that
they would never know the secret, or benefit by it in the least.

Now this sort of thing was not to be borne, you know, and after
affecting to scorn the whole concern, the boys were finally goaded to
confess to one another that they were dying to learn what was going on,
though no power on earth would make them own as much to the girls.  It
certainly was very tantalizing to the poor fellows penned up in the
breakfast-room (to keep the house quiet for an hour) to see the girls
prance in and out of the library with the most aggravating air of
importance and delight; to watch mysterious parcels borne along; to
hear cries of rapture, admiration, or alarm from the next room, and to
know that fun of some sort was going on, and they not in it.

It snowed so they could not go out; all had played their parts manfully
at dinner, and were just in the lazy mood when a man likes to be amused
by the gentler half of the race (which they believe was created for
that express purpose), and there, on the other side of the folding
doors, were half-a-dozen sprightly damsels, laughing and chatting,
without a thought or care for the brothers and cousins gaping and
growling close by.

The arrival of a sleigh-load of girlish neighbors added to the
excitement, and made the boys feel that something must be done to
redress their wrongs.

"Let's burst in on them and take a look, no matter if they do scold,"
proposed Tom, the scapegrace, ready for a raid.

"No, that won't do; grandma said we were to let the girls alone, and we
shall lose our presents if we don't behave.  You just lean up against
the door, Joe, and if it flies open, why it is an accident, you know,"
said Alf the wise.

So Joe, the fat cousin, backed up to the door like a young elephant,
and leaned hard; but it was locked, and nothing came of it but a creak
from the door, and a groan from Joe.

"I'll look through the keyhole, and tell what I see," cried little
Neddy; and no one forbade him, though, at any other time, big brother
Frank would have cuffed his ears for daring to suggest such a prank.

"There's something bright, and the girls are fussing round it.  Kitty's
got a lot of red and blue ribbons in her hand, and Grace is up in a
chair, and Nell--oh, it's cake; a great dish full of the jolliest
kinds, and bon-bons, and sugared fruit, just the sort I like.  I say,
knock the door down, some of you big fellows, and let's have one grab!"
cried Neddy, maddened by the sight of the forbidden sweeties.

"Be quiet, and take another peep; it's rather interesting to hear
what's going on," said Frank, reposing upon the sofa like the Great
Mogul, as the boys called him.

Poor little Tantalus obediently applied his eye to the keyhole, but
fell back with a blank face, saying in a despairing tone:

"They've plugged it up, and I can't see a thing!"

"Serves you right; if you'd held your tongue they never would have
known what you were about," was Frank's ungrateful answer.

A stifled giggle from the other side of the door caused a dead silence
to pervade the breakfast-room for several minutes, while Neddy wriggled
out of sight under the sofa as if to escape from the finger of scorn.

Suddenly Tom cried in a shrill whisper, "I've got it!" and pointed to a
ventilator over the door.

A simultaneous rush of boys and chairs took place; but Tom claimed the
rights of a discoverer, and, softly mounting an improvised ladder of
tables and stools, he peered eagerly through the glass, while impatient
hands plucked at his legs, and the pressure of the mob caused his perch
to totter perilously.

The spectacle which he beheld would have touched the heart of any
little girl, but to an unappreciative boy it possessed no charm, for it
was only a doll's Christmas tree.  For weeks, the young mammas had been
making pretty things for their wooden, wax, or porcelain darlings, and
it was excellent practice, since many a pair of hands that scorned
patchwork and towels, labored patiently over small gowns, trimmed gay
hats, and wrought wonders in worsted, without a sigh.

It really was a most delightful little tree, set in an Indian jar,
snowed over with flour, garlanded with alternate festoons of
cranberries and pop-corn, and every bough laden with such treasures
that if dolls could stare any harder than they do, they certainly would
have opened their painted eyes with amazement and joy.  Such "darling"
hats, and caps; such "sweet" gowns and cloaks; such "cunning" muffs and
tippets!  Dressing cases as perfect as grown-up ones, I assure you;
mittens that must have been knit on darning-needles; shoes of colored
kid fit for a doll's Cinderella, and sets of brass and bead jewelry
that glittered splendidly.  Wee bottles of perfume for waxen noses;
tiny horns of comfits; travelling bags, and shawl straps, evidently
worked by the fairies; and underclothes which I modestly forbear to
describe, merely saying that very few of the seams were puckered, and
the trimmings "perfectly lovely."

At the moment when Peeping Tom's profane eye beheld the innocent revel,
the dolls were seated in a circle, their mammas standing behind them,
while the happy little hostesses bestowed the gifts with appropriate
remarks.  It is needless to say that the dolls behaved beautifully,
their cheeks glowing with pleasure as they returned thanks in voices so
like those of their mothers that one couldn't tell the difference.

The tree was soon stripped, and then the chatter began again, for every
thing must be tried on at once, and more than one doll who came in
shabby clothes bloomed out in gorgeous array, or was made tidy for the
winter.

"I'm so glad to get a worked flannel petticoat for my Jemima.  Mamma
was saying only yesterday that she didn't approve of show at the
expense of comfort, and I knew she meant Jemmy, who hadn't a thing on
but her pink silk dress and earrings," observed Mrs. Kitty, in a moral
tone.

"Clementina has been suffering for shoes, though her feet don't show
with a train.  I meant to have saved enough to buy her some, but what
with limes and candy, and pencils, and fines for saying 'awful,' I do
believe the poor thing would have gone bare-footed all winter, if Nell
hadn't given her these beauties," replied Mrs. Alice, proudly surveying
her daughter's feet in red kid boots of a somewhat triangular shape.

"I couldn't make them fit very well, because the cotton is all coming
out of her toes, and it was hard to measure," explained Mrs. Nell,
conscious that shoemaking was not her mission.

"They are just the thing; for I'm afraid my poor Clem is going to have
the gout, young as she is.  It is in our family, so it is well to be
prepared," answered Mrs. Alice, with the beautiful forethought of a
maternal heart.

"These muffs are made out of our Tabby's skin.  I thought you'd like
them as keepsakes, for we all loved her," said Grace, with a pensive
sigh, as she smoothed the white fur of a dear departed cat, feeling
that black and violet bows would have been more suitable than red and
blue for the decoration of these touching memorials.

"I wonder if there isn't a nice place somewhere for good cats when they
die?  I hope so: for I'm sure they have souls, though they may be
little bits of ones," observed Kitty, who felt as if her name was a tie
between herself and the pets she most adored.

"I wonder if they have ghosts," said Nell, as if she feared that
Tabby's might appear.

A faint "Meou" seemed to float down to the startled girls from some
upper region, and for an instant they stood staring about them.  Then
they laughed like a chime of bells, and accused little Lotty of
pinching the kitten in her arms.

"I didn't; it was Tom up dere," protested the child, pointing to the
ventilator, from which a round red face was staring at them, like a
full moon.

Shrieks of indignation greeted the discovery, and a rain of small
articles pelted the countenance of the foe, as it grinned derisively,
while a jeering voice called out:

"I don't think much of your old secret.  It wasn't worth the fuss you
made about it, and I wouldn't have any if I couldn't do better than
that."

"I'd like to see you get up any thing half as nice.  You couldn't do
it.  Boys never invent new games, but girls do.  Papa says so, and he
knows," answered Nell.

"Pooh!  We fellows could beat you as easy as not, if we cared to; so
you needn't brag, miss.  Men invent every thing in the world,
'specially ventilators, and you see how useful they are," returned Tom,
glad that he had kept his place in spite of the maltreatment his
extremities were undergoing.

"Boys are more curious than girls, anyway.  We should never have done
such a mean thing as to peek at you," cried Kitty, coming to the
rescue, and hitting the enemy in his weakest spot.

"Oh, we only did it for fun.  Give us a taste of your spread, and we'll
never say a word about it," returned the barefaced boy, with a
wheedlesome air, and a tender glance toward the dainty tea-table set
forth so temptingly just under his nose.

"Not a bit, unless you'll say our tree is lovely and own that we are
the cleverest at getting up new and nice things," said Kitty, sternly.

"Never!" roared Tom; "we can beat you any day if we choose."

"Then do it, and we will own up; yes, and we will go halves in all the
goodies we get off our big tree to-night," added Kitty, bound to stand
by her sex and ready to wager a year's bon-bons in the defence of her
position.

"By George, I'll do it if the fellows will agree!  Honor bright now,
and no dodging," said Tom, recklessly pledging himself and friends to
any thing and every thing.

"Honor bright," chorused the girls in high glee.

"Only don't be a month about it; you boys are so slow," added Grace, in
a superior tone, that ruffled the gentleman at the ventilator.

"We'll do it to-morrow; see if we don't," he cried out, rashly heaping
difficulties upon his party.

"Then you'd better set about it at once, and leave us in peace," said
Nell, tartly.

"I shall go, ma'am, when I please, and not one minute sooner"--began
Tom, with immense dignity; but he did not keep his word; for the sudden
withdrawal of his head, followed by a crash and howls of mingled
merriment, wrath, and pain, plainly proved that circumstances over
which he had no control hastened his departure.

The ladies sat down to their afternoon tea, which was much enlivened by
guessing what those "stupid boys" would do.  The gentlemen, warned by
Tom's downfall, contented themselves with racking their mighty minds to
invent some new, striking, and appropriate entertainment which should
cover their names with glory and demolish their opponents for ever more.

Perhaps it was too soon after dinner; perhaps the brightest wits of the
party had been shaken by the fall, or the cold affected the inventive
powers; for, rack as they would, those mighty minds refused to work.

"You ought to have given us more time; of course we can't get up any
thing clever in one day and a half," grumbled Frank, much annoyed
because all the rest looked to him and he had not an idea to offer.

"I wasn't going to have a parcel of girls crow over me.  I'd blow
myself up for a show before I'd let them do that," answered Tom,
rubbing his bruised elbows with a grim and defiant glance toward the
fatal ventilator, for he felt that he had got not only himself but his
mates into a scrape.

"Don't worry, old fellows; time enough; sleep on it, and something
capital will pop into somebody's noddle, see if it doesn't," counselled
Alf, with a sage nod, as he went to discover who was sobbing in the
hall.

Little Lotty sat on the fuzzy red mat, with a tortoise-shell kitten in
her arms, her white pinafore full of candies, and her chubby face
bedewed with tears.

"What's the matter, Toddlekins?" asked Alf, in such a sympathetic tone
that the afflicted infant poured forth her woes in one breath, with the
brown eyes flashing through their tears and a dramatic gesture of the
small hands that told the tale better than her broken words.

"De naughty, naughty girls turned out my Torty 'cause she hopped on de
table and drinked de tea, and I comed too, and we is doing to have a
kitmouse tee all ourselfs up in de nursery, so now!"

Alf laughed at her indignation, but dried her tears, and sent her away
happy with a sprig of hemlock from the decorations of the hall.
"Virtue is its own reward" proved true in this case; for as Alf went
back to his mates he had an idea--such a superb one that it nearly took
his breath away and caused him to break into a wild sort of jig, as he
cried aloud--"I've found it, boys; I've found it!"

"Where?  What?  How?" asked the others, clinging to him as if they were
shipwrecked mariners, and he a rope thrown out to them.

The idea was evidently a good one, for it was received with great
applause, and everybody was interested at once in helping Alf elaborate
his plan.

"Won't it be heaping coals of fire on their heads after the shabby way
they have treated us?" said Tom, chuckling at the thought of the girls'
remorse when the touching surprise in store for them should be revealed.

"But how the dickens shall we get enough m----?" began Frank, rather
inclined to throw cold water on the affair because he was not the
originator of it.

"Hush!" shouted Alf; then added in a melodramatic whisper, "If the
girls hear that word we are lost.  I've planned how to manage that, but
it will take time, and we'd better begin at once, or there won't be
enough you-know-whats to go round.  Come upstairs; we can talk safely
there without a pack of girls listening at the keyhole, as I know they
are this identical minute."

Alf raised his voice at the last words, and the boys trooped off with
derisive hoots; for a guilty rustle and a sudden outburst of
conversation in the other room told them that their shot had hit
somebody.

"I wish we hadn't dared them to do it; for they will be sure to get up
some dreadful surprise.  I shall be expecting it every minute, and that
will make me so nervous I shall not enjoy myself a bit."

"I'm not afraid; they won't invent any thing to-night, so we may as
well clear up and be ready for our tree," answered Kitty to Nell as
they packed the dolls on the sofa to sleep while their mammas enjoyed
themselves.

No need to tell about that evening, for every child knows what a
Christmas tree is better than we can describe it, so we will skip into
the next morning when the boys' joke came off.

The young folks usually slept late after their unwonted revelry by
night, but, strange to relate, the lads were early astir.  In fact,
Mary, the cook, saw several small ghosts whisking up the back-stairs
when she went down to kindle her fire, and curious sounds were heard in
attic and cellar, store-room and closets.

Something very exciting was going on, and the elders were evidently in
it, for, though several mammas were heard to cry out when certain
mysterious things were shown them, they never said a word, but looked
up bits of gay ribbon without a murmur; while the papas enjoyed the fun
and lent a hand in the most delightful manner.

When the girls came down to the late breakfast they found notes under
their napkins, inviting them to a surprise party in the drying room at
eleven A.M.

"I didn't think they'd be so quick.  Shall you dare to go?" whispered
Nell to Kitty as they compared notes and tried to make out the device
on the seal, which was evidently intended for an animal of some sort.

"We must go, for we promised.  Of course it won't amount to any thing,
and we can keep our sweeties," answered Kitty, lovingly eying the
pretty box of French bon-bons which she had so rashly staked.

"You'll be sorry if you don't, for it is the completest thing you ever
saw, and no end of fun in it," began Tom, assuming an ecstatic
expression and smacking his lips.

"Hold your tongue and go to work, or we shall not be ready in time.
We've got to trim all the _jigamarees_, hang the _thingummies_ while
they are fresh, and see that the basket of _treasures_ arrives safely,"
said Alf, with such mysterious nods and smiles that the girls were
instantly consumed by an intense curiosity to know what "thingummies"
and "jigamarees" were, while "treasures" had such a rich sound that
they began to hope the boys were really going to atone for the past by
some splendid piece of generosity.

"Come punctually at eleven and bring your boxes with you; they will be
a good deal lighter when you come down again;" with which cheering
remark Frank led off his men, leaving the girls to watch the clock with
anxious, yet eager eyes.

Their wonder and suspense was much increased by the fact that Lotty was
sent for and carried off by an escort of two.  Listening at the foot of
the back-stairs they heard her little voice exclaim approvingly:

"Oh how funny! how berry nice!" then the door closed, and the girls
heard no more.

As the clock struck, up marched seven young ladies, each with a bon-bon
box under her arm and an eager sparkle in her eyes.  As they paused at
the door Tom's voice was heard saying, "I wish they'd hurry up, for I'm
tired of this business and have had scratching enough."

"They are coming!  Now mind, no scrambling till I give the word.  Each
fellow stand in his place, keep the bows right side up and hold tight,
or there will be a dreadful piece of work," answered Alf, evidently
giving last touches to the spectacle.

"They have borrowed Fred's monkey and are going to scare us; I know
they are by what Tom said: and I hear a queer noise--don't you?"
whispered Nell, clutching Grace's skirts.

"It cannot be any thing very bad or Lotty would cry.  Steady, girls;
I'm going to knock," and Kitty gave a bold "rat-tat-tat," which caused
a sensation within.

The door opened, and Frank made his best bow as he said, with a
flourish:

"Enter, ladies, and join us in the interesting festival which we have
prepared at your desire.  Take a look first, and then I will explain
this charming scene if it is not clear to you."

No need to tell the girls to take a look; they had done that already;
but it was evident that an explanation would be necessary, for they
were quite mystified by the "charming scene;" and well they might be,
for it was a curious one.

The middle of the room was adorned by a large tub, in which stood a
small spruce tree hung with the oddest things that ever swung from a
bough.  Mice by their tails, bits of cheese, milk in small bottles, gay
balls, loops of string, squares of red and blue flannel like little
blankets, bundles of herbs tied with bright ribbons, and near the top
hung a cage with several small white animals dancing about in it.

But funniest of all was the circle of boys around this remarkable tree,
at the foot of which Lotty sat; for each held a cat or kitten in his
arms decorated with a gorgeous bow; both boys and cats so absurdly
solemn and ill at ease that after one look the girls burst into a gale
of merriment.

"Glad you like it, ladies; we have done our best, and I flatter myself
it is a pretty neat thing," began showman Frank, with a gratified air,
while the other boys with difficulty restrained their charges from
escaping to their mistresses.

"It's very funny, but what does it all mean?" asked Grace, wiping her
eyes, and nodding to her own fat Jerry, whose yellow eyes appealed to
her for aid.

"It is a Kitmouse tree, the first one ever known, prepared at great
expense for this occasion, to prove that _we_ can invent superior
amusements, and entirely outdo other folks who shall be nameless."

"It isn't half so pretty as our tree was," said Kitty, as Frank paused
for breath.

"But think how much more pleasure it will give; for cats can enjoy and
dolls can't.  These presents are useful and instructive; for we have
not only food and drink, but catnip and cataplasms for the poor
darlings, if they have catarrh or any other catastrophe of that sort;
but here is a little catechism for the kits, and string for cats'
cradles when they have learned their lessons.  Cataracts of milk will
flow from these bottles for their refreshment, and a catalogue of
delicacies will be furnished free to any lady wishing to repeat this
performance at a future time."

"Hurry up, and give Jerry a bite of something, or he'll eat me," cried
Tom, who had been silently struggling with his puss while Frank
delivered the speech, which he considered a masterpiece of wit.

"If the ladies will sit upon the window-seats I will give out the
presents at once;" and Frank proceeded to do so, amid much merriment;
for the kittens began at once to play with the balls, the cats to eat
and drink, while the boys surveyed the scene with great satisfaction,
and the girls applauded as the mice were handed round, one to each cat,
as a delicate attention, though few were eaten.

The pussies behaved remarkably well, for the lads had wisely selected
the most amiable ones they could find, and the six belonging to the
house received them hospitably.  Mother Bunch and her three kits did
the honors, while Torty and Jerry tried to be polite, though
aristocratic Torty arched her back at the half-starved little cat Neddy
found in the street, and stout old Jerry growled to himself when Nell's
pretty white Snowball took his mouse away.

Such a frolic as they had, boys and girls, cats and kittens,
altogether, one would have thought the house was coming down about
their ears.  The elders took a peep at them, but a very little of that
sort of fun satisfied them and they soon left the youngsters to
themselves.

"It's almost one, and we are going coasting before dinner, so own up
girls, and hand over the goodies," said Alf at last, when a lull came
and every one stopped for breath after a lively game of tag, which
caused the cats to seek refuge in every available nook and corner.

"I suppose we must; for it certainly was a bright idea, and we have had
a capital time," confessed honest Nell, sitting down in the
clothes-basket, where Mother Bunch had collected her family when the
romp began, and beginning to divide her candies.

"Stop a minute!" cried Kitty, with a twinkle in her black eyes; "was
not the agreement that you should _invent_ something newer and nicer
than our dolls' affair?"

"Yes; and isn't this ever so much better fun in every way than all that
fuss for rag babies that don't know or care any thing about it?" cried
Alf, as proud as a peacock of his success.

"Of course it is," admitted sly Kitty.

"Wasn't it clever of us to get it up, and haven't we pleased you by
treating your cats well?"

"I'm sure you have, and it was dear of you to do it."

"Well, then, what's the trouble?"

"Only that you did _not_ invent the thing all yourselves," coolly
answered Kitty.

"I should like to know who did!" cried the boys with one breath.

"Lotty.  She put the idea into your heads with her funny word
'kitmouse.'  You never would have thought of it but for that.  A girl
helped you; and a very little one too; you had to call her in to make
the cats mind, I'm sure, so you have lost your wager and we will keep
our bon-bons, thank you."

Kitty made a low courtesy and stood crunching a delicious strawberry
drop as she triumphantly surveyed the astounded boys, who looked as
much taken aback as Antonio and his friends when Portia outwits Shylock
in the famous court scene.

"She's got us there," murmured Frank, with an approving nod to his
clever young sister.

"Oh, come; that's not fair; we had a right to take just a word that
meant nothing till we made it.  I don't care for the sweet stuff, but
I'm not going to own that we are beaten!" cried Alf, in high dudgeon;
for he had taken much credit to himself for this bright idea.

"You _must_ own that a girl helped you.  Do that fairly and I'll go
halves, as we promised; for you _have_ made a good joke out of Lotty's
word," said Kitty, who was generous as well as just, and felt that the
poor lads deserved some reward for their labor.

"All right, if the other fellows agree," returned Tom, helping himself
to a handful of candy as he spoke; which cool performance had such a
good effect upon the other boys that they all cried out, "We do! we
do!" while Alf, swinging Lotty to his shoulder, marched away, singing
at the top of his voice,

  "Now cheer, boys, cheer,
  With three times three,
  Our little Lot,
  And her kitmouse tree!"



IV.

ROSES AND FORGET-ME-NOTS.



I.

ROSES.

It was a cold November storm, and every thing looked forlorn.  Even the
pert sparrows were draggle-tailed and too much out of spirits to fight
for crumbs with the fat pigeons who tripped through the mud with their
little red boots as if in haste to get back to their cosy home in the
dove-cot.

But the most forlorn creature out that day was a small errand girl,
with a bonnet-box on each arm, and both hands struggling to hold a big
broken umbrella.  A pair of worn-out boots let in the wet upon her
tired feet; a thin cotton dress and an old shawl poorly protected her
from the storm; and a faded hood covered her head.

The face that looked out from this hood was too pale and anxious for
one so young; and when a sudden gust turned the old umbrella inside out
with a crash, despair fell upon poor Lizzie, and she was so miserable
she could have sat down in the rain and cried.

But there was no time for tears; so, dragging the dilapidated umbrella
along, she spread her shawl over the bonnet-boxes and hurried down the
broad street, eager to hide her misfortunes from a pretty young girl
who stood at a window laughing at her.

She could not find the number of the house where one of the fine hats
was to be left; and after hunting all down one side of the street, she
crossed over, and came at last to the very house where the pretty girl
lived.  She was no longer to be seen; and, with a sigh of relief,
Lizzie rang the bell, and was told to wait in the hall while Miss Belle
tried the hat on.

Glad to rest, she warmed her feet, righted her umbrella, and then sat
looking about her with eyes quick to see the beauty and the comfort
that made the place so homelike and delightful.  A small waiting-room
opened from the hall, and in it stood many blooming plants, whose
fragrance attracted Lizzie as irresistibly as if she had been a
butterfly or bee.

Slipping in, she stood enjoying the lovely colors, sweet odors, and
delicate shapes of these household spirits; for Lizzie loved flowers
passionately; and just then they possessed a peculiar charm for her.

One particularly captivating little rose won her heart, and made her
long for it with a longing that became a temptation too strong to
resist.  It was so perfect; so like a rosy face smiling out from the
green leaves, that Lizzie could not keep her hands off it, and having
smelt, touched, and kissed it, she suddenly broke the stem and hid it
in her pocket.  Then, frightened at what she had done, she crept back
to her place in the hall, and sat there, burdened with remorse.

A servant came just then to lead her upstairs; for Miss Belle wished
the hat altered, and must give directions.  With her heart in a
flutter, and pinker roses in her cheeks than the one in her pocket,
Lizzie followed to a handsome room, where a pretty girl stood before a
long mirror with the hat in her hand.

"Tell Madame Tifany that I don't like it at all, for she hasn't put in
the blue plume mamma ordered; and I won't have rose-buds, they are so
common," said the young lady, in a dissatisfied tone, as she twirled
the hat about.

"Yes, miss," was all Lizzie could say; for _she_ considered that hat
the loveliest thing a girl could possibly own.

"You had better ask your mamma about it, Miss Belle, before you give
any orders.  She will be up in a few moments, and the girl can wait,"
put in a maid, who was sewing in the anteroom.

"I suppose I must; but I _won't_ have roses," answered Belle, crossly.
Then she glanced at Lizzie, and said more gently, "You look very cold;
come and sit by the fire while you wait."

"I'm afraid I'll wet the pretty rug, miss; my feet are sopping," said
Lizzie, gratefully, but timidly.

"So they are!  Why didn't you wear rubber boots?"

"I haven't got any."

"I'll give you mine, then, for I hate them; and as I never go out in
wet weather, they are of no earthly use to me.  Marie, bring them here;
I shall be glad to get rid of them, and I'm sure they'll be useful to
you."

"Oh, thank you, miss!  I'd like 'em ever so much, for I'm out in the
rain half the time, and get bad colds because my boots are old," said
Lizzie, smiling brightly at the thought of the welcome gift.

"I should think your mother would get you warmer things," began Belle,
who found something rather interesting in the shabby girl, with shy
bright eyes, and curly hair bursting out of the old hood.

"I haven't got any mother," said Lizzie, with a pathetic glance at her
poor clothes.

"I'm so sorry!  Have you brothers and sisters?" asked Belle, hoping to
find something pleasant to talk about; for she was a kind little soul.

"No, miss; I've got no folks at all."

"Oh, dear; how sad!  Why, who takes care of you?" cried Belle, looking
quite distressed.

"No one; I take care of myself.  I work for Madame, and she pays me a
dollar a week.  I stay with Mrs. Brown, and chore round to pay for my
keep.  My dollar don't get many clothes, so I can't be as neat as I'd
like."  And the forlorn look came back to poor Lizzie's face.

Belle said nothing, but sat among the sofa cushions, where she had
thrown herself, looking soberly at this other girl, no older than she
was, who took care of herself and was all alone in the world.  It was a
new idea to Belle, who was loved and petted as an only child is apt to
be.  She often saw beggars and pitied them, but knew very little about
their wants and lives; so it was like turning a new page in her happy
life to be brought so near to poverty as this chance meeting with the
milliner's girl.

"Aren't you afraid and lonely and unhappy?" she said, slowly, trying to
understand and put herself in Lizzie's place.

"Yes; but it's no use.  I can't help it, and may be things will get
better by and by, and I'll have my wish," answered Lizzie, more
hopefully, because Belle's pity warmed her heart and made her troubles
seem lighter.

"What is your wish?" asked Belle, hoping mamma wouldn't come just yet,
for she was getting interested in the stranger.

"To have a nice little room, and make flowers, like a French girl I
know.  It's such pretty work, and she gets lots of money, for every one
likes her flowers.  She shows me how, sometimes, and I can do leaves
first-rate; but"--

There Lizzie stopped suddenly, and the color rushed up to her forehead;
for she remembered the little rose in her pocket and it weighed upon
her conscience like a stone.

Before Belle could ask what was the matter, Marie came in with a tray
of cake and fruit, saying:

"Here's your lunch, Miss Belle."

"Put it down, please; I'm not ready for it yet."  And Belle shook her
head as she glanced at Lizzie, who was staring hard at the fire with
such a troubled face that Belle could not bear to see it.

Jumping out of her nest of cushions, she heaped a plate with good
things, and going to Lizzie, offered it, saying, with a gentle courtesy
that made the act doubly sweet:

"Please have some; you must be tired of waiting."

But Lizzie could not take it; she could only cover her face and cry;
for this kindness rent her heart and made the stolen flower a burden
too heavy to be borne.

"Oh, don't cry so!  Are you sick?  Have I been rude?  Tell me all about
it; and if I can't do any thing, mamma can," said Belle, surprised and
troubled.

"No; I'm not sick; I'm bad, and I can't bear it when you are so good to
me," sobbed Lizzie, quite overcome with penitence; and taking out the
crumpled rose, she confessed her fault with many tears.

"Don't feel so much about such a little thing as that," began Belle,
warmly; then checked herself, and added, more soberly, "It _was_ wrong
to take it without leave; but it's all right now, and I'll give you as
many roses as you want, for I know you are a good girl."

"Thank you.  I didn't want it only because it was pretty, but I wanted
to copy it.  I can't get any for myself, and so I can't do my
make-believe ones well.  Madame won't even lend me the old ones in the
store, and Estelle has none to spare for me, because I can't pay her
for teaching me.  She gives me bits of muslin and wire and things, and
shows me now and then.  But I know if I had a real flower I could copy
it; so she'd see I did know something, for I try real hard.  I'm so
tired of slopping round the streets, I'd do any thing to earn my living
some other way."

Lizzie had poured out her trouble rapidly; and the little story was
quite affecting when one saw the tears on her cheeks, the poor clothes,
and the thin hands that held the stolen rose.  Belle was much touched,
and, in her impetuous way, set about mending matters as fast as
possible.

"Put on those boots and that pair of dry stockings right away.  Then
tuck as much cake and fruit into your pocket as it will hold.  I'm
going to get you some flowers, and see if mamma is too busy to attend
to me."

With a nod and a smile, Belle flew about the room a minute; then
vanished, leaving Lizzie to her comfortable task, feeling as if fairies
still haunted the world as in the good old times.

When Belle came back with a handful of roses, she found Lizzie absorbed
in admiring contemplation of her new boots, as she ate sponge-cake in a
blissful sort of waking-dream.

"Mamma can't come; but I don't care about the hat.  It will do very
well, and isn't worth fussing about.  There, will those be of any use
to you?"  And she offered the nosegay with a much happier face than the
one Lizzie first saw.

"Oh, miss, they're just lovely!  I'll copy that pink rose as soon as
ever I can, and when I've learned how to do 'em tip-top, I'd like to
bring you some, if you don't mind," answered Lizzie, smiling all over
her face as she buried her nose luxuriously in the fragrant mass.

"I'd like it very much, for I should think you'd have to be very clever
to make such pretty things.  I really quite fancy those rose-buds in my
hat, now I know that you're going to learn how to make them.  Put an
orange in your pocket, and the flowers in water as soon as you can, so
they'll be fresh when you want them.  Good by.  Bring home our hats
every time and tell me how you get on."

With kind words like these, Belle dismissed Lizzie, who ran downstairs,
feeling as rich as if she had found a fortune.  Away to the next place
she hurried, anxious to get her errands done and the precious posy
safely into fresh water.  But Mrs. Turretville was not at home, and the
bonnet could not be left till paid for.  So Lizzie turned to go down
the high steps, glad that she need not wait.  She stopped one instant
to take a delicious sniff at her flowers, and that was the last happy
moment that poor Lizzie knew for many weary months.

The new boots were large for her, the steps slippery with sleet, and
down went the little errand girl, from top to bottom, till she landed
in the gutter directly upon Mrs. Turretville's costly bonnet.

"I've saved my posies, anyway," sighed Lizzie, as she picked herself
up, bruised, wet, and faint with pain; "but, oh, my heart! won't Madame
scold when she sees that band-box smashed flat," groaned the poor
child, sitting on the curbstone to get her breath and view the disaster.

The rain poured, the wind blew, the sparrows on the park railing
chirped derisively, and no one came along to help Lizzie out of her
troubles.  Slowly she gathered up her burdens; painfully she limped
away in the big boots; and the last the naughty sparrows saw of her was
a shabby little figure going round the corner, with a pale, tearful
face held lovingly over the bright bouquet that was her one treasure
and her only comfort in the moment which brought to her the great
misfortune of her life.



II.

FORGET-ME-NOTS.

"Oh, mamma, I am so relieved that the box has come at last!  If it had
not, I do believe I should have died of disappointment," cried pretty
Belle, five years later, on the morning before her eighteenth birthday.

"It would have been a serious disappointment, darling; for I had set my
heart on your wearing my gift to-morrow night, and when the steamers
kept coming in without my trunk from Paris, I was very anxious.  I hope
you will like it."

"Dear mamma, I know I shall like it; your taste is so good and you know
what suits me so well.  Make haste, Marie; I'm dying to see it," said
Belle, dancing about the great trunk, as the maid carefully unfolded
tissue papers and muslin wrappers.

A young girl's first ball-dress is a grand affair,--in her eyes, at
least; and Belle soon stopped dancing, to stand with clasped hands,
eager eyes and parted lips before the snowy pile of illusion that was
at last daintily lifted out upon the bed.  Then, as Marie displayed its
loveliness, little cries of delight were heard, and when the whole
delicate dress was arranged to the best effect she threw herself upon
her mother's neck and actually cried with pleasure.

"Mamma, it is too lovely! and you are very kind to do so much for me.
How shall I ever thank you?"

"By putting it right on to see if it fits; and when you wear it look
your happiest, that I may be proud of my pretty daughter."

Mamma got no further, for Marie uttered a French shriek, wrung her
hands, and then began to burrow wildly in the trunk and among the
papers, crying distractedly:

"Great heavens, madame! the wreath has been forgotten!  What an
affliction!  Mademoiselle's enchanting toilette is destroyed without
the wreath, and nowhere do I find it."

In vain they searched; in vain Marie wailed and Belle declared it must
be somewhere; no wreath appeared.  It was duly set down in the bill,
and a fine sum charged for a head-dress to match the dainty
forget-me-nots that looped the fleecy skirts and ornamented the bosom
of the dress.  It had evidently been forgotten; and mamma despatched
Marie at once to try and match the flowers, for Belle would not hear of
any other decoration for her beautiful blonde hair.

The dress fitted to a charm, and was pronounced by all beholders the
loveliest thing ever seen.  Nothing was wanted but the wreath to make
it quite perfect, and when Marie returned, after a long search, with no
forget-me-nots, Belle was in despair.

"Wear natural ones," suggested a sympathizing friend.

But another hunt among greenhouses was as fruitless as that among the
milliners' rooms.  No forget-me-nots could be found, and Marie fell
exhausted into a chair, desolated at what she felt to be an awful
calamity.

"Let me have the carriage, and I'll ransack the city till I find some,"
cried Belle, growing more resolute with each failure.

Mamma was deep in preparations for the ball, and could not help her
afflicted daughter, though she was much disappointed at the mishap.  So
Belle drove off, resolved to have her flowers whether there were any or
not.

Any one who has ever tried to match a ribbon, find a certain fabric, or
get any thing done in a hurry, knows what a wearisome task it sometimes
is, and can imagine Belle's state of mind after repeated
disappointments.  She was about to give up in despair, when some one
suggested that perhaps the Frenchwoman, Estelle Valnor, might make the
desired wreath, if there was time.

Away drove Belle, and, on entering the room, gave a sigh of
satisfaction, for a whole boxful of the loveliest forget-me-nots stood
upon the table.  As fast as possible, she told her tale and demanded
the flowers, no matter what the price might be.  Imagine her feelings
when the Frenchwoman, with a shrug, announced that it was impossible to
give mademoiselle a single spray.  All were engaged to trim a
bridesmaid's dress, and must be sent away at once.

It really was too bad! and Belle lost her temper entirely, for no
persuasion or bribes would win a spray from Estelle.  The provoking
part of it was that the wedding would not come off for several days,
and there was time enough to make more flowers for that dress, since
Belle only wanted a few for her hair.  Neither would Estelle make her
any, as her hands were full, and so small an order was not worth
deranging one's self for; but observing Belle's sorrowful face, she
said, affably:

"Mademoiselle may, perhaps, find the flowers she desires at Miss
Berton's.  She has been helping me with these garlands, and may have
some left.  Here is her address."

Belle took the card with thanks, and hurried away with a last hope
faintly stirring in her girlish heart, for Belle had an unusually
ardent wish to look her best at this party, since Somebody was to be
there, and Somebody considered forget-me-nots the sweetest flowers in
the world.  Mamma knew this, and the kiss Belle gave her when the dress
came had a more tender meaning than gratified vanity or daughterly love.

Up many stairs she climbed, and came at last to a little room, very
poor but very neat, where, at the one window, sat a young girl, with
crutches by her side and her lap full of flower-leaves and petals.  She
rose slowly as Belle came in, and then stood looking at her, with such
a wistful expression in her shy, bright eyes, that Belle's anxious face
cleared involuntarily, and her voice lost its impatient tone.

As she spoke, she glanced about the room, hoping to see some blue
blossoms awaiting her.  But none appeared; and she was about to despond
again, when the girl said, gently:

"I have none by me now, but I may be able to find you some."

"Thank you very much; but I have been everywhere in vain.  Still, if
you do get any, please send them to me as soon as possible.  Here is my
card."

Miss Berton glanced at it, then cast a quick look at the sweet, anxious
face before her, and smiled so brightly that Belle smiled also, and
asked, wonderingly:

"What is it?  What do you see?"

"I see the dear young lady who was so kind to me long ago.  You don't
remember me, and never knew my name; but I never have forgotten you all
these years.  I always hoped I could do something to show how grateful
I was, and now I can, for you shall have your flowers if I sit up all
night to make them."

But Belle still shook her head and watched the smiling face before her
with wondering eyes, till the girl added, with sudden color in her
cheeks:

"Ah, you've done so many kind things in your life, you don't remember
the little errand girl from Madame Tifany's who stole a rose in your
hall, and how you gave her rubber boots and cake and flowers, and were
so good to her she couldn't forget it if she lived to be a hundred."

"But you are so changed," began Belle, who did faintly recollect that
little incident in her happy life.

"Yes, I had a fall and hurt myself so that I shall always be lame."

And Lizzie went on to tell how Madame had dismissed her in a rage; how
she lay ill till Mrs. Brown sent her to the hospital; and how for a
year she had suffered much alone, in that great house of pain, before
one of the kind visitors had befriended her.

While hearing the story of the five years, that had been so full of
pleasure, ease and love for herself, Belle forgot her errand, and,
sitting beside Lizzie, listened with pitying eyes to all she told of
her endeavors to support herself by the delicate handiwork she loved.

"I'm very happy now," ended Lizzie, looking about the little bare room
with a face full of the sweetest content.  "I get nearly work enough to
pay my way, and Estelle sends me some when she has more than she can
do.  I've learned to do it nicely, and it is so pleasant to sit here
and make flowers instead of trudging about in the wet with other
people's hats.  Though I do sometimes wish I was able to trudge, one
gets on so slowly with crutches."

A little sigh followed the words, and Belle put her own plump hand on
the delicate one that held the crutch, saying, in her cordial young
voice:

"I'll come and take you to drive sometimes, for you are too pale, and
you'll get ill sitting here at work day after day.  Please let me; I'd
love to; for I feel so idle and wicked when I see busy people like you
that I reproach myself for neglecting my duty and having more than my
share of happiness."

Lizzie thanked her with a look, and then said, in a tone of interest
that was delightful to hear:

"Tell about the wreath you want; I should so love to do it for you, if
I can."

Belle had forgotten all about it in listening to this sad little story
of a girl's life.  Now she felt half ashamed to talk of so frivolous a
matter till she remembered that it would help Lizzie; and, resolving to
pay for it as never garland was paid for before, she entered upon the
subject with renewed interest.

"You shall have the flowers in time for your ball to-morrow night.  I
will engage to make a wreath that will please you, only it may take
longer than I think.  Don't be troubled if I don't send it till
evening; it will surely come in time.  I can work fast, and this will
be the happiest job I ever did," said Lizzie, beginning to lay out
mysterious little tools and bend delicate wires.

"You are altogether too grateful for the little I have done.  It makes
me feel ashamed to think I did not find you out before and do something
better worth thanks."

"Ah, it wasn't the boots or the cake or the roses, dear Miss Belle.  It
was the kind looks, the gentle words, the way it was done, that went
right to my heart, and did me more good than a million of money.  I
never stole a pin after that day, for the little rose wouldn't let me
forget how you forgave me so sweetly.  I sometimes think it kept me
from greater temptations, for I was a poor, forlorn child, with no one
to keep me good."

Pretty Belle looked prettier than ever as she listened, and a bright
tear stood in either eye like a drop of dew on a blue flower.  It
touched her very much to learn that her little act of childish charity
had been so sweet and helpful to this lonely girl, and now lived so
freshly in her grateful memory.  It showed her, suddenly, how precious
little deeds of love and sympathy are; how strong to bless, how easy to
perform, how comfortable to recall.  Her heart was very full, and
tender just then, and the lesson sunk deep into it never to be
forgotten.

She sat a long time watching flowers bud and blossom under Lizzie's
skilful lingers, and then hurried home to tell all her glad news to
mamma.

If the next day had not been full of most delightfully exciting events,
Belle might have felt some anxiety about her wreath, for hour after
hour went by and nothing arrived from Lizzie.

Evening came, and all was ready.  Belle was dressed, and looked so
lovely that mamma declared she needed nothing more.  But Marie insisted
that the grand effect would be ruined without the garland among the
sunshiny hair.  Belle had time now to be anxious, and waited with
growing impatience for the finishing touch to her charming toilette.

"I must be downstairs to receive, and can't wait another moment; so put
in the blue pompon and let me go," she said at last, with a sigh of
disappointment; for the desire to look beautiful that night in
Somebody's eyes had increased four-fold.

With a tragic gesture, Marie was about to adjust the pompon when the
quick tap of a crutch came down the hall, and Lizzie hurried in,
flushed and breathless, but smiling happily as she uncovered the box
she carried with a look of proud satisfaction.

A general "Ah!" of admiration arose as Belle, mamma, and Marie surveyed
the lovely wreath that lay before them; and when it was carefully
arranged on the bright head that was to wear it, Belle blushed with
pleasure.  Mamma said: "It is more beautiful than any Paris could have
sent us;" and Marie clasped her hands theatrically, sighing, with her
head on one side:

"Truly, yes; mademoiselle is now adorable!"

"I am so glad you like it.  I did my very best and worked all night,
but I had to beg one spray from Estelle, or, with all my haste, I could
not have finished in time," said Lizzie, refreshing her weary eyes with
a long, affectionate gaze at the pretty figure before her.

A fold of the airy skirt was caught on one of the blue clusters, and
Lizzie knelt down to arrange it as she spoke.  Belle leaned toward her
and said softly: "Money alone can't pay you for this kindness; so tell
me how I can best serve you.  This is the happiest night of my life,
and I want to make every one feel glad also."

"Then don't talk of paying me, but promise that I may make the flowers
you wear on your wedding-day," whispered Lizzie, kissing the kind hand
held out to help her rise, for on it she saw a brilliant ring, and in
the blooming, blushing face bent over her she read the tender little
story that Somebody had told Belle that day.

"So you shall! and I'll keep this wreath all my life for your sake,
dear," answered Belle, as her full heart bubbled over with pitying
affection for the poor girl who would never make a bridal garland for
herself.

Belle kept her word, even when she was in a happy home of her own; for
out of the dead roses bloomed a friendship that brightened Lizzie's
life; and long after the blue garland was faded Belle remembered the
helpful little lesson that taught her to read the faces poverty touches
with a pathetic eloquence, which says to those who look,
"Forget-me-not."



V.

OLD MAJOR.

"O, mamma, don't let them kill him!  He isn't doing any harm, and he's
old and weak, and hasn't any one to be good to him but Posy and me!"
cried little Ned, bursting into his mother's room, red and breathless
with anxiety and haste.

"Kill whom, dear?  Sit down and tell me all about it."

"I _can't_ sit down, and I _must_ be quick, for they may do it while
I'm gone.  I left Posy to watch him, and she is going to scream with
all her might the minute she sees them coming back!" cried Ned,
hovering restlessly about the doorway, as if expecting the call that
was to summon him to the rescue.

"Mercy on us! what is it, child?"

"A dear old horse, mamma, who has been hobbling round the road for a
week.  I've seen him driven away from all the neighbors, so Posy and I
give him clover and pat him; and to-day we found him at our bars,
looking over at us playing in the field.  I wanted him to come in, but
Mr. White came along and drove him off, and said he was to be killed
because he had no master, and was a nuisance.  Don't let him do it!"

"But, Neddy, I cannot take him in, as I did the lame chicken, and the
cat without a tail.  He is too big, and eats too much, and we have no
barn.  Mr. White can find his master, perhaps, or use him for light
work."

Mamma got no further, for Ned said again,--

"No, he can't.  He says the poor old thing is of no use but to boil up.
And his master won't be found, because he has gone away, and left Major
to take care of himself.  Mr. White knew the man, and says he had Major
more than eighteen years, and he was a good horse, and now he's left to
die all alone.  Wouldn't I like to pound that man?"

"It _was_ cruel, Neddy, and we must see what we can do."

So mamma put down her work and followed her boy, who raced before her
to tell Posy it would be "all right" now.

Mrs. West found her small daughter perched on a stone wall, patting the
head of an old white horse, who looked more like a skeleton than a
living animal.  Ned gave a whoop as he came, and the poor beast hastily
hobbled across the road, pressing himself into a nook full of
blackberry vines and thorny barberry bushes, as if trying to get out of
sight and escape tormentors.

"That's the way he does when any one comes, because the boys plague
him, and people drive him about till he doesn't know what to do.  Isn't
it a pity to see him so, mamma?" said tender-hearted Ned, as he pulled
a big handful of clover from his father's field close by.

Indeed, it was sad, for the poor thing had evidently been a fine horse
once; one could see that by his intelligent eye, the way he pricked up
his ears, and the sorrowful sort of dignity with which he looked about
him, as if asking a little compassion in memory of his long
faithfulness.

"See his poor legs all swelled up, and the bones in his back, and the
burrs the bad boys put in his mane, and the dusty grass he has to eat.
Look! he knows me, and isn't afraid, because I'm good to him," said
Ned, patting old Major, who gratefully ate fresh clover from the
friendly little hand.

"Yes, and he lets me stroke his nose, mamma.  It's as soft as velvet,
and his big eyes don't frighten me a bit, they are so gentle.  Oh, if
we could only put him in our field, and keep him till he dies, I should
be so happy!" said Posy, with such a wheedlesome arm about mamma's
neck, that it was very hard to deny her any thing.

"If you will let me have Major, I won't ask for any other birthday
present," cried Ned, with a sudden burst of generosity, inspired,
perhaps, by the confiding way in which the poor beast rubbed his gray
head against the boy's shoulder.

"Why, Neddy, do you really mean that?  I was going to give you
something you want very much.  Shall I take you at your word, and give
you a worn-out old horse instead?" asked mamma, surprised, yet pleased
at the offer.

Ned looked at her, then at old Major, and wavered; for he guessed that
the other gift was the little wheelbarrow he had begged for so
long,--the dear green one, with the delicious creak and rumble to it.
He had seen it at the store, and tried it, and longed for it, and
planned to trundle every thing in it, from Posy to a load of hay.  Yes,
it must be his, and Major must be left to his fate.

Just as he decided this, however, Posy gave a cry that told him Mr.
White was coming.  Major pressed further into the prickly hedge, with a
patient sort of sigh, and a look that went to Ned's heart, for it
seemed to say,--

"Good by, little friend.  Don't give up any thing for me.  I'm not
worth it, for I can only love you in return."

Mr. White was very near, but Major was safe; for, with a sudden red in
his freckled cheeks, Ned put his arm on the poor beast's drooping neck,
and said, manfully,--

"I choose _him_, mamma; and now he's mine, I'd like to see anybody
touch him!"

It was a pretty sight,--the generous little lad befriending the old
horse, and loving him for pure pity's sake, in the sweet childish way
we so soon forget.

Posy clapped her hands, mamma smiled, with a bright look at her boy,
while Mr. White threw over his arm the halter, with which he was about
to lead Major to his doom, and hastened to say,--

"I don't want to hurt the poor critter, ma'am, but he's no mortal use,
and folks complain of his being in the way; so I thought the kindest
thing was to put him out of his misery."

"Does he suffer, do you think? for if so, it would be no kindness to
keep him alive," said mamma.

"Well, no, I don't suppose he suffers except for food and a little
care; but if he can't have 'em, it will go hard with him," answered Mr.
White, wondering if the old fellow had any work in him still.

"He never should have been left in this forlorn way.  Those who had had
his youth and strength should have cared for him in his age;" and Mrs.
West looked indignant.

"So they should, ma'am; but Miller was a mean man, and when he moved,
he just left the old horse to live or die, though he told me, himself,
that Major had served him well, for nigh on to twenty years.  What do
you calculate to do about it, ma'am?" asked Mr. White, in a hurry to be
off.

"I'll show you, sir.  Ned, let down the bars, and lead old Major in.
That shall be his home while he lives, for so faithful a servant has
earned his rest, and he shall have it."

Something in the ring of mamma's voice and the gesture of her hand made
Ned's eyes kindle, and Mr. White walk away, saying, affably,--

"All right, ma'am; I haven't a word to say against it."

But somehow Mr. White's big barn did not look as handsome to him as
usual when he remembered that his neighbor, who had no barn at all, had
taken in the friendless horse.

It was difficult to make Major enter the field; for he had been turned
out of so many, driven away from so many lawns, and even begrudged the
scanty pickings of the roadside, that he could not understand the
invitation given him to enter and take possession of a great, green
field, with apple trees for shade, and a brook babbling through the
middle of it.

When at last he ventured over the bars, it was both sad and funny to
see how hard he tried to enjoy himself and express his delight.

First, he sniffed the air, then he nibbled the sweet grass, took a long
look about him, and astonished the children by lying down with a groan,
and trying to roll.  He could not do it, however, so lay still with his
head stretched out, gently flapping his tail as if to say,--

"It's all right, my dears.  I'm not very strong, and joy upsets me; but
I'm quite comfortable, bless you!"

"Isn't it nice to see him, all safe and happy, mamma?" sighed Posy,
folding her hands in childish satisfaction, while Ned sat down beside
his horse, and began to take the burrs out of his mane.

"Very nice, only don't kill him with kindness, and be careful not to
get hurt," answered mamma, as she went back to her work, feeling as if
she had bought an elephant, and didn't know what to do with him.

Later in the day a sudden shower came up, and mamma looked about to be
sure her little people were under cover, for they played out all day
long, if possible.  No chickens could the maternal hen find to gather
under her wings, and so went clucking anxiously about till Sally, the
cook, said, with a laugh,--

"Ned's down in the pastur', mum, holding an umberella over that old
horse, and he's got a waterproof on him, too.  Calvin see it, and 'most
died a-laughing."

Mamma laughed too, but asked if Ned had on his rubber boots and coat.

"Yes, mum, I see him start all in his wet-weather rig, but I never
mistrusted what the dear was up to till Calvin told me.  Posy wanted to
go, but I wouldn't let her, so she went to the upper window, where she
can see the critter under his umberella."

Mamma went up to find her little girl surveying the droll prospect with
solemn satisfaction; for there in the field, under the apple tree,
stood Major, blanketed with the old waterproof, while his new master
held an umbrella over his aged head with a patient devotion that would
have endeared him to the heart of good Mr. Bergh.

Fortunately the shower was soon over, and Ned came in to dry himself,
quite unconscious of any thing funny in his proceedings.  Mamma kept
perfectly sober while she proposed to build a rough shed for Major out
of some boards on the place.  Ned was full of interest at once; and
with some help from Calvin, the corner under the apple tree was so
sheltered that there would be no need of the umbrella hereafter.

So Major lived in clover, and was a happy horse; for Cockletop, the
lame chicken, and Bobtail, the cat, welcomed him to their refuge, and
soon became fast friends.  Cockle chased grasshoppers or pecked about
him with meditative clucks as he fed; while Bob rubbed against his
legs, slept in his shed, and nibbled catnip socially as often as his
constitution needed it.

But Major loved the children best, and they took good care of him,
though some of their kind attentions might have proved fatal if the
wise old beast had not been more prudent than they.  It was pleasant to
see him watch for them, with ears cocked at the first sound of the
little voices, his dim eyes brightening at sight of the round faces
peeping over the wall, and feeble limbs stirred into sudden activity by
the beckoning of a childish hand.

The neighbors laughed at Ned, yet liked him all the better for the
lesson in kindness he had taught them; and a time came when even Mr.
White showed his respect for old Major.

All that summer Neddy's horse took his rest in the green meadow, but it
was evident that he was failing fast, and that his "good time" came too
late.  Mamma prepared the children for the end as well as she could,
and would have spared them the sorrow of parting by having Major killed
quietly, if Ned had not begged so hard to let his horse die naturally;
for age was the only disease, and Major seemed to suffer little pain,
though he daily grew more weak, and lame, and blind.

One morning when the children went to carry him a soft, warm mash for
breakfast, they found him dead; not in the shed, where they had left
him warmly covered, but at the low place in the wall where they always
got over to visit him.

There he lay, with head outstretched, as if his last desire had been to
get as near them as possible, his last breath spent in thanking them.
They liked to think that he crept there to say good by, and took great
comfort in the memory of all they had done for him.

They cried over him tenderly, even while they agreed that it was better
for him to die; and then they covered him with green boughs, after Ned
had smoothed his coat for the last time, and Posy cut a lock from his
mane to make mourning rings of.

Calvin said he would attend to the funeral, and went off to dig the
grave in a lonely place behind the sand-bank.  Ned declared that he
could not have his horse dragged away and tumbled into a hole, but must
see him buried in a proper manner; and mamma, with the utmost kindness,
said she would provide all that was needed.

The hour was set at four in the afternoon, and the two little mourners,
provided with large handkerchiefs, Ned, with a black bow on his arm,
and Posy in a crape veil, went to drop a last tear over their departed
friend.

At the appointed time Calvin appeared, followed by Mr. White, with a
drag drawn by black Bill.  This delicate attention touched Neddy; for
it might have been bay Kitty, and that would have marred the solemnity
of the scene.

As the funeral train passed the house on its way down the lane, mamma,
with another crape veil on, came out and joined the procession, so full
of sympathy that the children felt deeply grateful.

The October woods were gay with red and yellow leaves, that rustled
softly as they went through the wood; and when they came to the grave,
Ned thanked Calvin for choosing such a pretty place.  A pine sighed
overhead, late asters waved beside it, and poor Major's last bed was
made soft with hemlock boughs.

When he was laid in it, mamma bade them leave the old waterproof that
had served for a pall still about him, and then they showered in bright
leaves till nothing was visible but a glimpse of the dear white tail.

The earth was thrown in, green sods heaped over it, and then the men
departed, feeling that the mourners would like to linger a little while.

As he left, Mr. White said, with the same gravity which he had
preserved all through the scene,--

"You are welcome to the use of the team and my time, ma'am.  I don't
wish any pay for 'em; in fact, I should feel more comfortable to do
this job for old Major quite free and hearty."

Mamma thanked him, and when he was gone, Ned proposed that they should
sing a hymn, and Posy added, "They always sing, 'Sister, thou art mild
and lovely' at funerals, you know."

Mamma with difficulty kept sober at this idea but suggested the song
about "Good old Charlie," as more appropriate.  So it was sung with
great feeling, and then Posy said, as she "wiped her weeping eyes,"--

"Now, Ned, show mamma our eppytap."

"She means eppytarf," explained Ned, with a superior air, as he
produced a board, on which he had printed with India ink the following
words,--


"Here lies dear old Major.  He was a good horse when he was young.  But
people were not kind to him when he was old.  We made him as happy as
we could.  He loved us, and we mourn for him.  Amen."


Ned's knowledge of epitaphs was very slight, so he asked mamma if this
one would do; and she answered warmly,--

"It is a very good one; for it has what many lack,--the merit of being
true.  Put it up, dear, and I'll make a wreath to hang on the
gravestone."

Much gratified, Ned planted the board at the head of the grave, Posy
gathered the brightest leaves, and mamma made a lovely garland in which
to frame the "eppytap."

Then they left old Major to his rest, feeling sure that somewhere there
must be a lower heaven for the souls of brave and faithful animals when
their unrewarded work is done.

Many children went to see that lonely grave, but not one of them
disturbed a leaf, or laughed at the little epitaph that preached them a
sermon from the text,--

"Blessed are the merciful."



VI.

WHAT THE GIRLS DID.

"I'm so disappointed that I can't go; but papa says he can't afford it
this summer.  You know we lost a good deal by the great fire, so we
must all give up something;" and Nelly gave a sigh, as if her sacrifice
was not an easy one.

"I'm sorry, too, for I depend on hearing all about your adventures
every summer.  It is almost as good as going myself.  What a pity
Newport is such an expensive place," answered Kitty Fisher, Nelly's
bosom friend.

"I dare say papa could manage to let me go for a week or so; but my
outfit would cost so much I dare not ask him.  One must dress there,
you know, and I haven't had a new thing this summer," said Nelly.

"I'm sure your old things as you call them, are nice enough for any
place.  I should think I was made, if I had such a lovely wardrobe;"
and Kitty's eye roved round the pretty room where several gowns and
hats were strewn as if for a survey.

"Ah, my dear, you don't know how quickly fashionable women spy out
make-shifts, and despise you for them.  All the girls I should meet at
Newport would remember those clothes and I shouldn't enjoy myself a
bit.  No, I must stay at home, or slip away to Aunt Becky's, up in New
Hampshire, where no one minds your clothes, and the plainer they are
the better.  It is as dull as tombs up there, and I long for the sea,
so it seems as if I _couldn't_ give up my trip."

"Why not go to a cheaper place?" asked Kitty, adding, with sudden
excitement, "Now look here!  This is just the thing, and I can go too,
so you won't be lonely.

"Mary Nelson wrote me the other day, begging I'd come down to Oceana,
and stay with her.  It's a nice, quiet place, with a beach all to
ourselves, lighthouse, rocks, fishing, boats, and all sorts of
agreeable things.  Not a bit fashionable, and every one wears old
clothes and enjoys him or her self in a sensible way."

"What's board there?"

"Ten a week, with bath-house, boats, and an old carriage thrown in."

"Who is there?"

"Several teachers resting, a family or two of children, and a lot of
boys camping out on the Point."

"And old clothes really will do?"

"Mary says she lives in her boating-dress, and went to an evening party
in a white morning-gown.  I'd quite decided to go and have a nice free
time, after you were off; but now you come with me, and for once see
what fun we poor folks can have without any fuss or feathers."

"I will.  Papa wants me to go somewhere, and will not think my expenses
down there are extravagant.  I'll pack to-day, and to-morrow we will be
off."

Next day they _were_ off, to be heartily welcomed by Mary, and speedily
made at home by Marm Wolsey, as the old lady who kept the house was
called.  It was a delightfully quiet, pleasant place, with big rooms
plainly furnished, but clean and full of fresh sea breezes day and
night.  Being founded on a rock, the boats were moored almost at the
door, the bath-house was close by, on a smooth beach, and the
lighthouse twinkled Cheerfully, through fog or moonlight, just over the
Point.

Such pleasant times as the girls had; taking early dips in the sea,
lying in hammocks on the airy piazza through the hot hours, rowing,
fishing, scrambling over the rocks, or sitting in shady nooks, working
and reading.

No one thought of clothes; and when Nelly timidly put on a delicate
silk one day, she was told finery was not allowed, and a merry
resolution was passed that no one should "dress up" under penalty of a
fine.  So flannel boating suits were all the fashion: and Miss Phelps
would have rejoiced at the sight of half-a-dozen rosy-faced girls
skipping about the rocks in a costume as simple and sensible as the one
she recommends.

Of course the campers on the Point soon discovered the mermaids in the
Cove, and, by a series of those remarkable accidents which usually
occur at such times, got acquainted without much ceremony.

Then the fun increased amazingly, and the old house saw gay doings; for
the lads had bonfires, concerts by moonlight on the rocks, and picnics
in every available cove, grove, and sea-weedy nook the place could
boast.

The mothers of the flocks of riotous children were matrons to the
girls; and the shy teachers came out amazingly when they found that the
three friends were not fashionable city ladies, but lively girls, bent
on having an agreeable and sociable time.

Nelly particularly enjoyed all this, and daily wondered why she felt so
much better than at Newport, forgetting that there her time was spent
in dressing by day, and dancing in hot rooms half the night, with no
exercise but a drive or a genteel sail, with some one to do the rowing
for her.

"It is the air and the quiet, I fancy," she said one day, when a month
had nearly gone.  "I'm getting so brown papa won't know me, and so fat
I have to let out all my things.  I do believe I've grown several
inches across the shoulders with all this rowing and tramping about in
a loose suit."

"Just so much health laid up for next winter.  I wish I could afford to
bring down a dozen pale girls every season, and let them do what you
have been doing for a month or two.  Poor girls, I mean, who lose their
health by hard work, not by harmful play," said Mary, who knew
something about the dark side of life, having been a governess for
years, with little brothers and sisters to care for, and an invalid
mother.

"It is so cheap here I should think most any one could afford to come,"
said Nelly, feeling a virtuous satisfaction in the thought of the money
she had saved by this economical trip.

"Ah, what seems cheap to you would be far beyond the means of many a
poor girl who only makes three or four dollars a week.  I've often
wondered why rich people don't do little things of that sort more.  It
must be so pleasant to give health and happiness at such small cost to
themselves."

"If papa were as well off as he was before the fire, I _could_ do
something of that sort, and I'd like to; but now I can do nothing," and
Nelly felt rather uncomfortable at the memory of the seventeen easy
years she had passed without ever thinking of such things.

"Girls, I've got an idea, and you must give me your advice at once,"
cried Kitty, bouncing in with her hat half off and her eyes full of fun.

"Tell on.  What is it?" asked Nelly, ready for any thing.

"Well, you know the boys have been very polite to us in many ways; they
break camp in two days, and we ought to give them a farewell of some
sort, to show that we are grateful for their civility.  Don't you think
so?"

"Of course!  What shall we do?"

"We have had picnics and water parties, and sings and dances in our
parlor, so we _must_ get up something new."

"Have a masquerade; it's such fun to fix up dresses," said Nelly, who
rather longed to show some of her neglected splendor.

"We might borrow the old barn, to have a grand time.  There's no hay in
it, so we could light it up splendidly," added Kitty, seizing upon the
idea with delight.

"How about supper?" asked prudent Mary, remembering the appetites of a
dozen hearty lads sharpened by sea air and exercise.

"I'll pay for the supper.  I've saved so much by my cheap trip, I can
spare twenty dollars as well as not," cried Nelly, bound to have the
thing done handsomely if at all.

"Bless you, child, it needn't cost half that!  Don't go and be
extravagant, for we can have cake of Marm Wolsey, and make lemonade
ourselves; it won't cost much, and the boys will be just as well off as
if we had a grand spread."

"You let me manage that part of the affair.  I have ordered suppers at
home, and I know what is proper.  I will go up to town by the first
boat to-morrow, and be back in time to help about dresses, and trimming
up the barn.  Marm will lend us sheets, and with green boughs, flowers,
and candles, we can make a lovely room for our little party.  I'll
bring down some colored candles, and get some old-fashioned dresses at
home, and do any errands for you."

Here Nelly stopped for breath, and the others fell to discussing what
they would "go as."  Their fellow-boarders were taken into the secret,
and in an hour Marm Wolsey's whole establishment was in a ferment.
Notes of invitation were dispatched; and replies on birch-bark came
pouring in with most agreeable promptitude.

The campers accepted to a man, and were soon seen ravaging the little
town for red flannel and fisherman's toggery, or shouting with laughter
in their tents as they fabricated horse-hair beards, Indian wampum and
Roman armor.

Next morning Nelly departed, charged with sundry very important
commissions, and the rest fell to work decorating the barn and
overhauling their wardrobes, while good-natured Marm "het the big oven"
and made cake till the air smelt as if a gale from the Spice Islands
had blown over the Point.

At four, the boat came in; but no one saw Nelly arrive, for the whole
flock had gone over the rocks to get hemlock boughs in the grove.

When Mary and Kitty returned, they ran to the big room where they held
their confabulations, and there found Nelly looking over a bundle of
old brocades.  Something odd in her face and manner made them both say
at once,--

"What's the matter?  Has any thing gone wrong?"

"I'm afraid you will think so, when I tell you that I have ordered no
supper, got no pretty candles or flowers, and only spent two dollars of
my money," said Nelly, looking both amused and anxious.

"Lost your purse?" cried Kitty.

"No."

"Thought better of it, like a wise child," said Mary.

"I brought something down that you didn't ask for, and may be sorry to
have; but I couldn't help it.  Look out there and see if that isn't
better than bon-bons or finery."

Nelly pointed to a rock not far from the window, and both her friends
stared in surprise; for all they saw was a strange girl sitting there,
gazing out over the sea with an expression of wordless delight in her
tired, white face and hungry eyes.

"Who is it?" whispered Mary.

"My little seamstress," answered Nelly.  "I went to get her to fix my
dress, and found her looking so pale and used up my heart ached.  All
the while she was fitting me, and I was telling her about our fun down
here, she kept saying with a little gasp as if for fresh air,--

"'How beautiful it must be, Miss Nelly!  I'm so glad you are enjoying
so much and look so well.'

"Then what you once said, Mary, came into my head, and my money burnt
in my pocket till I broke out all of a sudden, saying,--

"'Wouldn't you like to go down with me for a week and get rested and
freshened up a little, Jane?'

"Girls, if I had asked her to go straight to heaven, or do any lovely
thing, she could not have looked more amazed, delighted, and touched.

"'O, Miss Nelly, you are too good.  I'm afraid I ought not to leave
work.  It seems almost too splendid to believe.'

"I wouldn't hear a word, for my heart was set on doing it when I saw
how she longed to go.  So I said she could help us with our dresses,
and I must have her come on that account if no other.

"Then she said she had nothing fit to wear, and I was so glad to be
able to tell her that none of us wore nice clothes, and hers were quite
fit.  I just made her put on her bonnet, brought her away in the
twinkling of an eye, and there she is enjoying rest, fresh air,
sunshine and her first view of the sea."

"Nelly, you are an angel!" and Kitty hugged her on the spot, while Mary
beamed at her with tears in her eyes, as she said, quietly,--

"I did not think my little sermon would be so soon and beautifully
taken to heart.  The sight of that poor child, sitting there so happy,
is better than the most splendid supper you could have ordered.  I
shall always love and honor you for this, dear."

Nelly's face was a pretty mixture of smiles and tears, as her friends
kissed and praised her.  Then she said, brightly,--

"Now we will have nothing but our cake and lemonade, and make up in
good spirits for the supper we have lost.  Flowers will do for favors,
and tallow candles will help the moon light up our 'hall.'  See my
Bo-Peep dress; and here are lots of things for you.  To-morrow Jane
will help us, and we will be splendiferous."

Three happy faces bent over the old brocades, three busy tongues
chattered gaily of trains and flounces, and three pairs of friendly
eyes peeped often at the quiet figure on the rocks, finding greater
satisfaction in that sweet little tableau than in any they could plan.

Merry times they had next day, for Jane's skilful fingers worked
wonders, and gratitude inspired her with all manner of brilliant ideas.
She was introduced as a friend; any deficiencies in her wardrobe were
quietly supplied by Nelly, and she proved herself an invaluable ally,
enjoying every minute of the precious time.

Nothing could have been prettier in its way than the old barn, draped
with sails and sheets, with flags and pennons from the boats, great
peonies and green boughs for decorations.  Candles and lanterns
twinkled their best, and the great doors at both ends stood wide open,
letting in floods of moonlight, fresh air and lovely glimpses of the
sea.

The neighbors all came to "peek," and the hearty laughter of the big
brown fishermen clustered round the door was good to hear, as the
comical, quaint, or charming figures entered the room.  Tow-headed
children roosted on the beams, women in calico gowns sat staring in the
stalls, while babies slept placidly in the hay-racks, and one meek cow
surveyed the scene with astonished eyes.

Powhattan, St. George, Brother Jonathan, Capt. Cuttle, Garibaldi and
other noble beings came from the camp, to find Bo-Peep in a ravishing
little costume, with a Quakeress, Sairey Gamp, Dolly Varden and a host
of other delightful ladies ready to receive them.

What happy hours followed, with the promenades, and plays, and homely
yet delightful surroundings.  The barn was so cool, so spacious, and
every thing was so free and simple, that every one "went in and enjoyed
himself like a man," as Capt. Kyd gracefully remarked to Mary Nelson,
who was capitally and cheaply got up as the Press, dressed in
newspapers, with a little telegraph, posts, wires and all, on her head.

Fruit, cake and lemonade was all the feast, spread on the big rock in
front of the barn, and no one complained; for moonlight, youth and
happy hearts lent their magic to the scene.

"Never had such a good time in my life," was the general verdict when
the party broke up at eleven, and the gallant guests departed, to
return the compliment by a charming serenade an hour later.

"Now that just puts the last touch to it.  So romantic and delicious!"
sighed Nelly, listening luxuriously to the melodious strains of that
college favorite, "Juanita."

"It's all like a beautiful dream to me," sighed Jane, who was peeping
through the blinds with the other pretty white ghosts, and enjoying the
whole thing to her heart's core.

Kitty threw out some flowers, and when each youth had stuck a relic in
his button-hole, the sailor hats disappeared, leaving only the musical
assurance that "Her bright smile haunts me still," to echo over the
rocks and die away in the lapping of the tide upon the shore.

A quiet week followed, and the girls spent it teaching Jane to row and
swim, taking her to drive in the old wagon, and making her "have a good
time."

She was so blissfully happy and improved so much that Nelly had serious
thoughts of applying to her father for more money, so that Jane might
stay longer.  But though she said not a word about her little charity,
the truth crept out, and several of the ladies quietly made up a
handsome sum for Jane.

They gave it to Nelly, asking her to use it and say nothing of them,
lest it should annoy the little seamstress.  So Nelly, when her own
time was up had the pleasure of telling Jane she was to stay some weeks
longer, and of slipping into her hand the means so kindly provided for
her.

She had no words in which to thank these friends, but her happy face
did it as she bade them good-by, when they left her smiling, with wet
eyes, among the roses in the lane.

"Our visit has been a success, though it wasn't Newport, hey, Nelly?"
said Kitty, as they rumbled away in the big omnibus.

"Oh, yes!  I've had a lovely time, and mean to come next summer and
bring another Jane, to go halves with me; it gives such a relish to
one's fun somehow," answered Nelly, contentedly tying on her last
year's hat.

"Old clothes, wholesome pleasures and a charitable deed are all the
magic that has made your month so happy and so helpful," said Mary,
putting an affectionate arm about the shoulders in the now faded jacket.

"And good friends; don't forget to add that," answered Nelly, with a
grateful kiss.



VII.

LITTLE NEIGHBORS.



TWITTER THE FIRST.

"Mamma, I do wish I had a nice, new play.  Can't you make me one?" said
Bertie, pensively surveying the soles of his shoes, as he lay flat on
his back with his heels in the air.

"No, dear, I couldn't possibly stop now, for I must write my letters,
or they won't be in time, and papa will be disappointed."

"Then I wish I had somebody to play with me!  A jolly little chap who
would amuse me and make me laugh," continued Bertie, and, dropping his
legs, he lay for a moment, looking as if he really did need a playmate
very much.

"Tweet! tweet!" said a little voice, in such a brisk tone that the boy
stared about him eager to see who spoke.

One pane of the long window that opened on the balcony was fixed like a
door, so that the room might be ventilated.  This pane stood open, and
perched upon its threshold was a sparrow peering in with an inquisitive
air, and a bold "Tweet! tweet!" as if he said,--

"Here's a little friend all ready to play with you."

"Oh, mamma, see the cunning bird! He wants to come in!  Don't stir, and
may be he'll hop down and eat the crumbs of my luncheon on the table.
It's Cocky Twitters; I know him by his tail, with only two feathers in
it, and his twinkling eye, and his little fat body," cried Bertie,
lying as still as a statue, and looking with delight at the new-comer.

You see Bertie lived near a square where many English sparrows had
their homes, and all winter the kind child fed his little neighbors.
Day after day he strewed crumbs in the balcony, and day after day the
birds came to peck them gratefully, or to fly away with the big bits to
their nests.  So they learned to know and love and trust each other,
and the passers-by often saw a pretty sight up in the sunny balcony
where the delicate boy stood with his feathered friends about him; some
at his feet, some on his shoulders, some boldly stealing crumbs from
his basket, and the more timid hopping about on the wide balustrade,
catching such stray mouthfuls as reached them.

Bertie was fond of his birds, and had names for some of them, but his
favorite was Cocky Twitters, a bold, saucy, droll fellow, who was
always whisking about as if he had every thing in the bird-world to
attend to.  He fought like a little game-cock if any other sparrow
troubled him, but he was good to the weak and timid ones, and never
failed to carry a nice crumb or two to his old papa, who had something
the matter with his wing, and seldom went far from the little brown
house stuck like a wasp's nest on one of the trees.

Cocky had often thought about coming in to call, but never had found
the courage to really do it, so Bertie was enchanted when, after a good
deal of tweeting, much perking up of his smooth head, and many a
sidelong twinkle of his little black eye, Cocky actually hopped down
upon the table.

Mamma sat motionless, smiling at her little guest, and Bertie hardly
dared to wink as he watched his pet's pranks.

Cocky had evidently made up his mind to have a right good time, and
see, taste, examine, and enjoy all he found in this new world.  So he
paraded about the table, ate a bit of cake, pecked at an apple, and
drank prettily out of Bertie's silver mug; then he wiped his bill quite
properly, took a look at the books, peeped into the inkstand, draggled
his tail in the gum-pot, examined mamma's work-basket, and took a sniff
at the flowers.  After that he strolled over the carpet with such a
funny swagger of his thin legs, such an important roll of his fat,
little body, and such an impudent cock of his head, that Bertie burst
out laughing, which made Cocky flit away to the top of the clock, where
he sat and twittered as if he was laughing too.

"I wish I could keep him a few days, he is so jolly!  Couldn't I put
him in Dickey's cage, and feed and be good to him, mamma?"

"He would never trust you again if you did."

"But I should 'splain it to him, and tell him it was only a visit."

"He wouldn't like it, and I think you will enjoy him more when he makes
visits of his own accord.  He would be the maddest little bird that
ever flew if you shut him up; but leave him free, and every day it will
be a pleasure to open the pane and see him come in confidingly.  He is
tired of this warm room already, and trying to get out.  Show him the
way, and let him go."

"I'll have one good feel of him anyhow, but I won't hurt him," said
Bertie, yielding the point, but bound to get a little fun out of his
fat friend before he went.

So he danced about after Cocky, who was so bewildered he could not find
his own little door, and bounced against all the wrong panes till he
was dizzy, and fell down in a corner.  Then Bertie softly grabbed him
and though he pecked fiercely, Bertie got a "good feel" of the soft,
warm mite.  Then he let him go, and Cocky sat on the balustrade and
chirped till all his friends came to see what the fuss was about.

"Oh, I do wish I could understand what they say.  He's telling them all
about his visit, and they look so cunning, sitting round listening and
asking questions.  You know French and German; don't you know bird-talk
too, mamma?" asked Bertie, turning round, after he had stood with his
nose against the glass till it was as cold as a little icicle.

"No, dear, I am sorry to say I don't."

"I thought mammas knew every thing," said Bertie, in a disappointed
tone.

"They ought to if they expect to answer all the questions their
children ask them," answered mamma, with a sigh, for Bertie had an
inquiring mind and often puzzled his parents sorely.

"I suppose you haven't got time to learn it?" was the next remark.

"Decidedly not.  But you have, so you'd better begin at once, and let
me go on with my work."

"I don't know how to begin."

"You must ask some wiser person than I am about that," answered mamma,
scratching away at a great rate.

"I know what I'll do!" said Bertie, after meditating deeply for a few
minutes; and, putting on his cap and coat, he went out upon the balcony.

Mamma thought he had gone to consult Cocky, and forgot all about him
for a time.  But Bertie had another plan in his head, and went
resolutely up to one of the windows of the next house.  It opened on
the same balcony, and only a low bar separated the houses, so Bertie
often promenaded up and down the whole length, and more than once had
peeped under the half-drawn curtain at the gray-headed gentleman who
always seemed to be too busy with his books to see his little neighbor.

Bertie had heard Professor Parpatharges Patterson called a very learned
man, who could read seven languages, so he thought he would call and
inquire if bird language was among the seven.  He peeped first, and
there was Mr. P. reading away with his big spectacles on, and some
dreadfully wise old book held close to his nose.  As he did not look
up, Bertie tapped softly, but Mr. P. did not hear.  Then this resolute
young person pushed up the window, walked coolly in, and stood close to
the student's side.  But Mr. P. did not see him till the remarkable
appearance of a small blue mitten right in the middle of Plato's
Republic, caused the Professor to start and stare at it with such a
funny expression of bewilderment that Bertie could not help laughing.

The blithe sound seemed to wake the man out of a dream, for, falling
back in his chair, he sat blinking at the child like a surprised owl.

"Please, sir, I knocked, but you didn't hear, so I came in," said
Bertie, with an engaging smile, as he respectfully pulled off his cap
and looked up at the big spectacles with bright, confiding eyes.

"What did you wish, boy?" asked the Professor, in a solemn, yet not
ungentle, tone.

"I wanted to know if you would tell me how I could learn bird-talk."

"What?" and the man stared at the child harder than ever.

"Perhaps I'd better sit down and 'splain all about it," remarked
Bertie, feeling that the subject was too important to be hastily
discussed.

"Take a seat, boy;" and the Professor waved his hand vaguely, as if he
did not know much about any chair but his own old one, with the
stuffing bursting out, and ink spots everywhere.

As all the chairs had books and papers piled up in them, Bertie, with
great presence of mind, sat down upon an immense dictionary that lay
near by, and with a hand on either knee, thus briefly explained himself:

"My mamma said that you were very wise, and could read seven
langwitches, so I thought you would please tell me what Cocky Twitters
says."

"Is Twitters a bird or a boy?" asked the Professor, as if bewildered by
what seemed a very simple affair to innocent Bertie.

At this question, the boy burst forth into an eager recital of his
acquaintance with the sparrows, giving a little bounce on the fat
dictionary now and then when he got excited, while his rosy face shone
with an eagerness that was irresistible.

The Professor listened as if to a language which he had almost
forgotten, while the ghost of a smile began to flicker over his lips,
and peer out from behind his glasses, as if somewhere about him there
was a heart that tried to welcome the little guest, who came tapping at
the long-closed door.

When Bertie ended, out of breath, Mr. P. said, slowly, while he looked
about as if to find something he had lost,--"I understand now, but I'm
afraid I've forgotten all I ever knew about birds,--and boys too," he
added, with an odd twinkle of the glasses.

"Couldn't you _reccomember_ if you tried hard, sir?"

"I don't think I could."

Bertie gave a great sigh, and cast a reproachful glance upon the
Professor, which said as plainly as words, "You must have been a _very_
idle man to live among books till you are gray, and not know a simple
thing like this."

I think Mr. P. understood that look, and felt ashamed of his sad
ignorance; for he rose up and went walking about the room, poking into
corners and peering up at the books that lined the walls, till he found
a large volume, and brought it to Bertie, who still sat despondently
upon the dictionary.

"Perhaps this will help us.  It tells much about birds, and the tales
are all true."

Bertie caught the book in his arms, laid it open on his knees, and with
one delighted "Oh!" at the first peep, became entirely absorbed in the
gay pictures.  With an air of relief, the Professor retired to his
chair, and sat watching him very much as he had watched Cocky Twitters.
A pretty little picture he made; for a ray of sunshine crept in to
shine on his bright head like a playmate come to find him; his downy
brows were knit, and his rosy mouth pursed up at times with the mingled
exertions of mind and body, for the book was both beautiful and heavy.
His eyes feasted on the pages; and now and then he laughed out with
delight, as he found a bird he knew, or gave a satisfied nod, and
trotted his foot to express his satisfaction at some unusually splendid
one.  Once he tried to cross his tired legs, but they were too short,
and the book went down with a bang that made him glance at his host in
alarm.

But while he studied Audubon's birds, the Professor had studied mamma's
boy, and found he _could_ "reccomember" some of the traits belonging to
_that_ species of wild-fowl.  As he looked, the smile had been playing
hide-and-go-seek among his wrinkles, getting less ghostly every minute,
and when the book fell, it came boldly out and sat upon his face so
pleasantly, that Bertie ceased to be afraid.

"Put it on the table, boy," said Mr. P., beckoning with an inky finger.

Bertie lugged his treasure thither, and leaning both elbows on it,
began to brood again.  It really did seem as if the Professor wanted to
have a good "feel" of the boy as the boy did of Cocky, for presently
the inky finger softly stroked the yellow head, then touched the round,
red cheek, and put a little curl back behind the ear.  Then the
spectacles took a long look all over the little figure, from the
striped stockings to the fur collar on the small coat, and something
about it, a certain chubbiness of outline and softness of exterior
perhaps, seemed to be so attractive, that, all of a sudden, two large
hands hovered over Bertie, gently clutched him, and set him on the
Professor's knee.

If Mr. P. felt any doubts as to how his guest would take this liberty,
they were speedily set at rest, for Bertie only gave one wiggle to
settle himself, and, turning a page, said affably,--

"Now, tell me all about 'em."

And Professor Parpatharges Patterson actually did tell him story after
story out of that charming book, till the sound of a bell made the
truant jump down in a great hurry, saying,--

"Mamma wants me, and I must go, but I'll come again soon, and may be,
if we study hard, we shall learn bird-talk after all."

Mr. P. shook his head; but Bertie would not give up yet, and added
encouragingly,--

"Mamma says people are never too old to learn, and papa says Latin
makes all the other langwitches easy; I see lots of Latin books, and
you read 'em, so I'm sure, if you listen to my sparrows, when I feed
'em, you _can_ understand some of their talk."

"I'll try, and let you know how I get on," said Mr. P., laughing as if
he didn't know how very well, but couldn't help making the attempt.

"I'm very much obliged to you, sir, and I shall be glad to pay you for
your trouble.  I've got two dollars in my tin bank, and I'll smash it,
and get 'em out, if that will be enough," said Bertie, suddenly
remembering to have heard that Mr. P. was not rich.

"No, boy, I don't want your pennies, you shall pay in some other way,
if I succeed," answered the Professor, with a touched sort of look
about the spectacles.

"I've had a very nice time.  Good day, sir," and Bertie held out his
hand, as he made his best bow.

"Good day, boy.  Come again."

I think there must have been some magic about that blue mitten, or the
warm little hand inside, for, as he held it quite buried up in his own
big one, Mr. P. suddenly stooped down, and said, in a queer, bashful
sort of tone,--

"Suppose you pay with kisses, if you have any to spare."

"I've got hundreds; I always keep 'em ready, because mamma needs so
many," and Bertie held up his rosy mouth, as if this sort of coin best
suited the treasury of a loving heart.

Considering that the Professor had not kissed any one for twenty years
at least, he did it very well, and, when Bertie was gone, stood looking
down at the corpulent old dictionary, as if he still saw a bright-eyed
little figure sitting on it, and considered that a great improvement
upon the dust that usually lay there.



TWITTER THE SECOND.

Mamma was right; for Cocky, finding himself well treated at his first
visit, called again, and being feasted on sugar, fruit, and cake, and
allowed to go when he liked, was entirely won.  From that time he was
the friend of the family, and called as regularly as the postman.  He
knew his own little door, and if it was shut he tapped with his bill
till some one opened it, when he came bustling in, chirping a gay "How
are you?" and waggling his ragged tail in the most friendly manner.
Weather made no difference to him; in fact rainy days were his favorite
times for calling.  His little coat was waterproof, he needed no
umbrella, and often came hopping in, with snow-flakes on his back, as
jolly as you please.

I don't know what Bertie would have done without this sociable little
neighbor, for it was a stormy winter and he could not go out much;
other children were at school; even mamma's inventive powers gave out
sometimes, and toys grew tiresome.  But Cocky never did, and such games
as the two had together it would have done your heart good to see, for
the boy was so gentle that the bird soon grew very tame and learned to
love and trust with the sweetest confidence.  A jollier sparrow never
hopped; and after a good lunch with Bertie, both drinking out of one
mug, both pecking at the same apple, and sharing the same cake, Cocky
was ready for play.  He would hide somewhere and Bertie would hunt for
him, guided now and then by a faint "Tweet" till the little gray bunch
was found in some sly nook and came bouncing out with a whisk and a
chirp.

When Bertie sat at lessons, Cocky would roost on his shoulder, hop over
the open page with his head on one side as if reading it, peer into the
inkstand inquisitively, or settle himself among the flowers that stood
in the middle of the table, like a little teacher ready to hear the
lessons when they were learned.

And sometimes when Bertie lay asleep, tired with books or play, Cocky
would circle round him with soft flight, and perch on his pillow,
waiting silently till his playmate woke, "like an angel guarding the
dear in his sleep," as old nurse said, watching the pretty sight.

Professor Parpatharges Patterson was right also; for he apparently did
try to understand "bird-talk," and did succeed; for a few days after
Bertie's call a letter came flying in at the open pane just at
twilight, very much as if Cocky had brought it himself.  It was written
on robin's-egg-colored paper, and bore the title, "Life and Adventures
of Cocky Twitters, Esq."

Mamma began to laugh as she glanced over it, and Bertie screamed with
delight when a funny sketch appeared of an egg with a very small but
brisk little bird hopping out of it without a feather on him.  It was
very funny, and when mamma read Cocky's thoughts and feelings on first
beholding the world, it was so droll, and Bertie was so tickled, that
he rolled on the floor and kicked up his heels.

Mr. P. must have tried very hard to "reccomember" the accomplishments
and gayety of his youth, for the sketch was so good and the first
chapter of this bird-book so merry that mamma put it in a little
portfolio and showed it to all her friends, for no one ever dreamed
that the studious old Professor had it in him to do such a clever thing.

Bertie wanted to rush right in and thank him that very night, but mamma
said he had better wait till morning and then play a little joke in
return for the Professor's.  So next day, when Mr. P. pulled up the
curtain of his study window, there hung a lovely posy of flowers and a
little card with "Bertie Norton's compliments and thanks" on it.

That pleased the old man; and all that day the roses filled his room
with their sweet breath, mutely talking to him of a happy time when his
little daughter used to put nosegays on his table, and dance about him
like a blooming rose escaped from its stem.  For years no one had
thought to scatter flowers among the wise books out of which the poor
man tried to gather forgetfulness, if not happiness.  No one guessed
that he had a lonely heart as well as a learned head, and no childish
hand had clung to his till the blue mitten rested there, unconsciously
leading him from his sad solitude to the sweet society of a little
neighbor.

Bertie soon called again, and this time Mr. P. heard, saw, and welcomed
him at once.  A cushion lay on the fat dictionary, the bird-book was
all ready, the eyes behind the big spectacles beamed with satisfaction
as the boy climbed on his knee, and the inky hands held the chubby
guest more eagerly and carefully than the most precious old book ever
printed.

After that second call the new friendship flourished wonderfully, and
the boy became to the Professor what Cocky was to Bertie, a merry,
innocent visitor, whose pretty plays and pranks cheered the dull days,
whose love and confidence warmed his heart, whose presence grew more
and more precious since its unconscious power made sunshine for the
lonely man.

Such good times as they had!  Such nice chats and stories, such laughs
at very small jokes, such plans for summer, such fun feeding the
sparrows, who soon learned to come to both windows fearlessly, and such
splendid chapters as were added to "C. Twitter's Life and Adventures,"
with designs that half killed mamma with laughing.

The people in the house were much amused with the change in the
Professor, and for a time could not understand what was going on up in
that once quiet room.  For the sound of little feet trotting about was
heard, also a cheery child's voice, and now and then a loud bang as if
a pile of books had tumbled down, followed by shouts of merriment, for
Mr. P. could laugh capitally, after a little practice.

Stout Mrs. Bouncer, the landlady, went up one day to see what was going
on, and was so surprised at the spectacle that met her eyes she could
hardly believe her senses.

In the middle of the room was a house built of the precious books which
the maid had been forbidden to touch, and in the middle of this
barricade sat Bertie, reading "Æsop's Fables" aloud.  The table which
used to be filled with Greek and Hebrew volumes, learned treatises, and
intricate problems was now bestrewn with gay pictures, and Mr. P., with
his spectacles pushed back, his cuffs turned up, and a towel tied round
him, was busily pasting these brilliant designs into a scrap-book bound
in parchment and ornamented with brass clasps.

The Professor evidently had made up his mind that the faded pages were
much improved by the gay pictures, and sat smiling over his work as he
saw a dead language blossom into flowers, and heard it sing from the
throats of golden orioles and soaring larks.

"Well, I never!" said Mrs. Bouncer to herself, and then added aloud,
after a long stare, "Do you want any thing, sir?"

"Nothing, thank you, ma'am, unless you happen to have a couple of
apples in the house.  Good, big, red ones, if you please," answered Mr.
P., so briskly that she couldn't help laughing, as she said,--

"I'll send 'em right up, sir, and a fresh jumble or so for the little
boy."

"Thank you, ma'am, thank you.  We fellows have been hard at it for an
hour, and we are as hungry as bears; hey, Bertie?"

"I'm fond of jumbles," was the young student's suggestive reply, as he
peeped over the walls with a nod and a smile.

"Bless my heart, what has come to the Professor!" thought Mrs. Bouncer,
as she hastened away, while Mr. P. waved his paste brush and Bertie
kissed his hand to her.

The neighbors said the same when they saw the two playmates walking out
together, as they often did in fine weather.  Five old ladies, who sat
all day at their different windows watching their neighbors, were so
astonished at the sudden appearance of the Professor, hand-in-hand with
a yellow-haired little laddie, that they could hardly believe their
spectacles.  When they saw him drawing Bertie round the square on his
sled Racer, they lifted their ten old hands in utter amazement, and
when they beheld him actually snowballing, and being snowballed by,
that mite of a boy, they really thought the sky must be going to fall.

Mamma heartily enjoyed all this; for through her doctor she had learned
much about Mr. P., and both admired and pitied him, and was very glad
that Bertie had so wise and kind a playmate.  She saw that they did
each other good, and in many delicate ways helped the boy to serve,
amuse and repay the man who made him so happy.

Cocky also approved of the new friend, and called occasionally to
express his views on education.  He was very affable, but never allowed
Mr. P. to take the same liberties that Bertie did, and after a general
survey, would light upon the bald pate of a plaster Homer, whence he
watched the boys at play, with deep interest.  Mr. P. was immensely
flattered by Cocky's visits, and made his "Life" so interesting and
droll, that Bertie really believed that the man and bird did it between
them.

"I owe a great deal to Mr. Twitters, and I hope I shall discover a way
to show my gratitude," said the Professor more than once, and he did,
as you will see.  It was a very happy winter, in spite of rain and
snow, and as spring came on, the three friends had fine times in the
park.  Bertie fed his birds there now; and they, remembering how he had
kept them alive through the bitter weather, seemed to love him more
than ever.  They flocked round him as soon as he appeared, chirping,
fluttering, pecking, and hopping so fearlessly and gayly, that people
often came to see the pretty sight, and "Bertie's birds" were one of
the lions of the neighborhood.

Cocky was very busy and important about this time.  His tail-feathers
had grown again, he seemed to have put on a new drab waistcoat, and his
head was so sleek that Bertie was sure he used pomade.  When he called
at the balcony, he often brought another sparrow with him,--a plump,
downy bird, with a bright eye, a Quakerish dress, and very gentle
manners.

"Mamma says Cocky is going to be married, and that pretty one is his
little sweetheart.  Won't it be nice?  I wonder if he will ask us to
the wedding, and where he will live!" said Bertie, standing still in
the park, staring up at the nests stuck on the elm boughs, now green
with tender leaves and noisy with happy birds.

"I don't think he will ask us, and I very much fear that there won't be
room in that brown nest for the old papa and the young folks also,"
answered Mr. P., staring as hard as Bertie did.

"Then we must ask the mayor to have a new house put up for Cocky.
Don't you think he would if I wrote him a nice letter and showed him
your book?  He'd see what a brave good bird my Twitters is, and give
him a nice house, I'm sure," said Bertie earnestly, for he would
believe that Cocky had really done all the fine and funny things
recounted in that remarkable book.

"Leave it to me, boy.  I will see what can be done about a mansion for
Cocky to begin housekeeping in;" and Mr. P. gave a knowing nod, as if
he had a new idea.

So Bertie said no more, and, soon after this conversation, went to
Plymouth, on a visit with mamma.  May-day was coming, and Bertie wanted
to hang baskets on the doors of young and old neighbors; chief among
the latter his dear Mr. P.

Nowhere in New England do May-flowers grow so large and rosy, or bloom
so early and so sweet as in Plymouth, and Bertie gathered a great
hamper full of the best, made up in nosegays, garlands, and baskets.
Then they came home, and all along the way people sniffed and peeped
and smiled at the odorous load which the boy guarded so carefully and
rejoiced over so much.

Very early next morning, Bertie and mamma set out to hang the
May-baskets on a dozen doors.  The five old ladies each had one, and
were immensely pleased at being remembered; for Bertie had discovered
that hearts can be young in spite of gray hair, and proposed doing this
all himself.  Then there was a sick lady who used to look out at the
child as he played, with a sad, white face and wistful eyes; two pretty
little girls came next, and had raptures in their night-gowns, when the
baskets were brought up to them in bed.

Down in a back street was a lame boy who made hockey-sticks; a blind
woman who knit the blue mittens, and several children who never had a
flower except the dusty dandelions in the park.  One can easily imagine
how happy these bits of spring made them, and how they welcomed the
sweet things with their woody fragrance and rosy faces.

When the last was given, mamma proposed a little walk over the bridge,
for it was a lovely day, and she seemed in no haste about breakfast.

Bertie was very hungry before they got back, and was quite ready to go
in the back way, directly to the dining-room, where his bread and milk
was waiting for him.  Right in the middle of breakfast, Mary, the girl,
gave mamma a card, on which was written two words: "All ready!"

Why mamma should laugh when she read it, and why Mary should say, in a
whisper, "It's just lovely, ma'am," and then run out of the room
giggling, Bertie could not understand.

"Can't I know, mamma?" he asked, feeling sure that some joke or secret
was afoot.

"Yes, dear, all in good time.  Go now and see if Mr. Patterson has
found the May-flowers you hung on his window."

Away went Bertie to the balcony, found the posy gone, and the room
empty; so he turned about and was going back, when all of a sudden he
saw something that nearly took his breath away with surprise and
delight.

Now you must know that the house on the other side of Bertie's jutted
out a little, and the niche thus made was covered with a woodbine that
climbed up from the grass-plot below.  All summer this vine rustled its
green leaves above that end of the balcony; in the autumn it hung
crimson streamers there, and through the winter the sparrows loved to
cuddle down among the twisted stems, sunning their backs in the
sheltered corner, and pressing their downy breasts against the warm
bricks.  Bertie used to hang great shells full of plants there, and
called it his garden, but now something even more delightful and
ornamental than ivy or flame-colored nasturtiums met his eye.

Up among the budding sprays stood a charming little house, with a wide
piazza all round it; a white house, with cunning windows and a tiny
porch, where the door stood hospitably open, with the owner's name
painted on it.

When Bertie read "C. Twitters," he had to hold on to the railing, lest
he should tumble over, so pleased was he with this delightful surprise.
As if nothing was wanting to make it quite perfect, Cocky himself came
flying up to say "Good morning;" and after a long survey of the new
house went to examine it.  He walked all round the piazza, sat upon the
chimney to see if that was all right, popped his head into the porch,
appeared to read the name on the door, and to understand all about it,
for with one shrill chirp, he walked in and took possession at once.

Then Bertie danced for joy and called out, "Oh, mamma, come and see!
He likes it; he's gone in, and I'm sure he means to live there!"

Mamma came, and so did Mr. P., both pretending to be much amazed at
Cocky's daring to build a house so near without asking leave.

But Bertie was not deceived a bit, and hugged them both on the spot,
with many thanks for this charming joke, while Cocky sat at his door
and twittered, like a grateful, happy little bird, as he was.

That was only the beginning of it; for the interesting things that
happened after this May-day were too many to tell.  Cocky was married
at once, and went to house-keeping in his new villa.  Mrs. Twitters
evidently liked it extremely, and began to bring in her straw furniture
and feather-beds, like a busy little house-wife.  Papa Twitters came
too; though they had a hard job to get him there, he was so lame with
rheumatism.  But the vine helped the poor old dear; for after he had
got safely across the street, he hopped up the woodbine, little by
little, till he got to the porch, and there sat down to rest.

He did not stay long, however, for, like a wise bird, he felt that the
young folks would do better alone, and after a nice visit, he returned
to the brown nest in the park, where his children called every day and
never forgot to take the old papa a crumb of comfort.

Cocky made an excellent husband, and often brought his wife to call on
Bertie, who, when the warm days came, sat much in the balcony, always
ready for a chat, a game, or a song.  All the other birds were chirping
gayly, so he joined the chorus; and his favorite was that merry ballad
beginning,--

  "A little cock-sparrow,
    Sat up in a tree,
  And whistled, and whistled,
    And thus whistled he."


While Bertie and Cocky sang, mamma smiled over her work within, and a
gray head often popped out of Mr. P.'s window, as if he loved to listen
and to learn still more of the sweet, new language his little neighbors
taught him.



VIII.

MARJORIE'S THREE GIFTS.

Marjorie sat on the door-step, shelling peas, quite unconscious what a
pretty picture she made, with the roses peeping at her through the
lattice work of the porch, the wind playing hide-and-seek in her curly
hair, while the sunshine with its silent magic changed her faded
gingham to a golden gown, and shimmered on the bright tin pan as if it
were a silver shield.  Old Rover lay at her feet, the white kitten
purred on her shoulder, and friendly robins hopped about her in the
grass, chirping "A happy birthday, Marjorie!"

But the little maid neither saw nor heard, for her eyes were fixed on
the green pods, and her thoughts were far away.  She was recalling the
fairy-tale granny told her last night, and wishing with all her heart
that such things happened nowadays.  For in this story, as a poor girl
like herself sat spinning before the door, a Brownie came by, and gave
the child a good-luck penny; then a fairy passed, and left a talisman
which would keep her always happy; and last of all, the prince rolled
up in his chariot, and took her away to reign with him over a lovely
kingdom, as a reward for her many kindnesses to others.

When Marjorie imagined this part of the story, it was impossible to
help giving one little sigh, and for a minute she forgot her work, so
busy was she thinking what beautiful presents she would give to all the
poor children in her realm when _they_ had birthdays.  Five impatient
young peas took this opportunity to escape from the half-open pod in
her hand and skip down the steps, to be immediately gobbled up by an
audacious robin, who gave thanks in such a shrill chirp that Marjorie
woke up, laughed, and fell to work again.  She was just finishing, when
a voice called out from the lane,--

"Hi, there! come here a minute, child!" and looking up, she saw a
little old man in a queer little carriage drawn by a fat little pony.

Running down to the gate, Marjorie dropped a curtsy, saying
pleasantly,--

"What did you wish, sir?"

"Just undo that check-rein for me.  I am lame, and Jack wants to drink
at your brook," answered the old man, nodding at her till his
spectacles danced on his nose.

Marjorie was rather afraid of the fat pony, who tossed his head,
whisked his tail, and stamped his feet as if he was of a peppery
temper.  But she liked to be useful, and just then felt as if there
were few things she could _not_ do if she tried, because it was her
birthday.  So she proudly let down the rein, and when Jack went
splashing into the brook, she stood on the bridge, waiting to check him
up again after he had drunk his fill of the clear, cool water.

The old gentleman sat in his place, looking up at the little girl, who
was smiling to herself as she watched the blue dragon-flies dance among
the ferns, a blackbird tilt on the alder-boughs, and listened to the
babble of the brook.

"How old are you, child?" asked the old man, as if he rather envied the
rosy creature her youth and health.

"Twelve to-day, sir;" and Marjorie stood up straight and tall, as if
mindful of her years.

"Had any presents?" asked the old man, peering up with an odd smile.

"One, sir,--here it is;" and she pulled out of her pocket a tin
savings-bank in the shape of a desirable family mansion, painted red,
with a green door and black chimney.  Proudly displaying it on the rude
railing of the bridge, she added, with a happy face,--

"Granny gave it to me, and all the money in it is going to be mine."

"How much have you got?" asked the old gentleman, who appeared to like
to sit there in the middle of the brook, while Jack bathed his feet and
leisurely gurgled and sneezed.

"Not a penny yet, but I'm going to earn some," answered Marjorie,
patting the little bank with an air of resolution pretty to see.

"How will you do it?" continued the inquisitive old man.

"Oh, I'm going to pick berries and dig dandelions, and weed, and drive
cows, and do chores.  It is vacation, and I can work all the time, and
earn ever so much."

"But vacation is play-time,--how about that?"

"Why, that sort of work _is_ play, and I get bits of fun all along.  I
always have a good swing when I go for the cows, and pick flowers with
the dandelions.  Weeding isn't so nice, but berrying is very pleasant,
and we have good times all together."

"What shall you do with your money when you get it?"

"Oh, lots of things!  Buy books and clothes for school, and, if I get a
great deal, give some to granny.  I'd love to do that, for she takes
care of me, and I'd be so proud to help her!"

"Good little lass!" said the old gentleman, as he put his hand in his
pocket.  "Would you now?" he added, apparently addressing himself to a
large frog who sat upon a stone, looking so wise and grandfatherly that
it really did seem quite proper to consult him.  At all events, he gave
his opinion in the most decided manner, for, with a loud croak, he
turned an undignified somersault into the brook, splashing up the water
at a great rate.  "Well, perhaps it wouldn't be best on the whole.
Industry is a good teacher, and money cannot buy happiness, as I know
to my sorrow."

The old gentleman still seemed to be talking to the frog, and as he
spoke he took his hand out of his pocket with less in it than he had at
first intended.

"What a very queer person!" thought Marjorie, for she had not heard a
word, and wondered what he was thinking about down there.

Jack walked out of the brook just then, and she ran to check him up;
not an easy task for little hands, as he preferred to nibble the grass
on the bank.  But she did it cleverly, smoothed the ruffled mane, and,
dropping another curtsy, stood aside to let the little carriage pass.

"Thank you, child--thank you.  Here is something for your bank, and
good luck to it."

As he spoke, the old man laid a bright gold dollar in her hand, patted
the rosy cheek, and vanished in a cloud of dust, leaving Marjorie so
astonished at the grandeur of the gift, that she stood looking at it as
if it had been a fortune.  It was to her; and visions of pink calico
gowns, new grammars, and fresh hat-ribbons danced through her head in
delightful confusion, as her eyes rested on the shining coin in her
palm.

Then, with a solemn air, she invested her first money by popping it
down the chimney of the scarlet mansion, and peeping in with one eye to
see if it landed safely on the ground-floor.  This done, she took a
long breath, and looked over the railing, to be sure it was not all a
dream.  No; the wheel-marks were still there, the brown water was not
yet clear, and, if a witness was needed, there sat the big frog again,
looking so like the old gentleman, with his bottle-green coat, speckled
trousers, and twinkling eyes, that Marjorie burst out laughing, and
clapped her hands, saying aloud,--

"I'll play he was the Brownie, and this is the good-luck penny he gave
me.  Oh, what fun!" and away she skipped, rattling the dear new bank
like a castanet.

When she had told granny all about it, she got knife and basket, and
went out to dig dandelions; for the desire to increase her fortune was
so strong, she could not rest a minute.  Up and down she went, so
busily peering and digging, that she never lifted up her eyes till
something like a great white bird skimmed by so low she could not help
seeing it.  A pleasant laugh sounded behind her as she started up, and,
looking round, she nearly sat down again in sheer surprise, for there
close by was a slender little lady, comfortably established under a big
umbrella.

"If there were any fairies, I'd be sure that was one," thought
Marjorie, staring with all her might, for her mind was still full of
the old story; and curious things do happen on birthdays, as every one
knows.

It really did seem rather elfish to look up suddenly and see a lovely
lady all in white, with shining hair and a wand in her hand, sitting
under what looked very like a large yellow mushroom in the middle of a
meadow, where, till now, nothing but cows and grasshoppers had been
seen.  Before Marjorie could decide the question, the pleasant laugh
came again, and the stranger said, pointing to the white thing that was
still fluttering over the grass like a little cloud,--

"Would you kindly catch my hat for me, before it blows quite away?"

Down went basket and knife, and away ran Marjorie, entirely satisfied
now that there was no magic about the new-comer; for if she had been an
elf, couldn't she have got her hat without any help from a mortal
child?  Presently, however, it did begin to seem as if that hat was
bewitched, for it led the nimble-footed Marjorie such a chase that the
cows stopped feeding to look on in placid wonder; the grasshoppers
vainly tried to keep up, and every ox-eye daisy did its best to catch
the runaway, but failed entirely, for the wind liked a game of romps,
and had it that day.  As she ran, Marjorie heard the lady singing, like
the princess in the story of the Goose-Girl,--

  "Blow, breezes, blow!
  Let Curdkin's hat go!
  Blow, breezes, blow!
  Let him after it go!
  O'er hills, dales and rocks,
    Away be it whirled,
  Till the silvery locks
    Are all combed and curled."

This made her laugh so that she tumbled into a clover-bed, and lay
there a minute to get her breath.  Just then, as if the playful wind
repented of its frolic, the long veil fastened to the hat caught in a
blackberry-vine near by, and held the truant fast till Marjorie secured
it.

"Now come and see what I am doing," said the lady, when she had thanked
the child.

Marjorie drew near confidingly, and looked down at the wide-spread book
before her.  She gave a start, and laughed out with surprise and
delight; for there was a lovely picture of her own little home, and her
own little self on the door-step, all so delicate, and beautiful, and
true, it seemed as if done by magic.

"Oh, how pretty!  There is Rover, and Kitty and the robins, and me!
How could you ever do it, ma'am?" said Marjorie, with a wondering
glance at the long paint-brush, which had wrought what seemed a miracle
to her childish eyes.

"I'll show you presently; but tell me, first, if it looks quite right
and natural to you.  Children sometimes spy out faults that no one else
can see," answered the lady, evidently pleased with the artless praise
her work received.

"It looks just like our house, only more beautiful.  Perhaps that is
because I know how shabby it really is.  That moss looks lovely on the
shingles, but the roof leaks.  The porch is broken, only the roses hide
the place; and my gown is all faded, though it once was as bright as
you have made it.  I wish the house and every thing would stay pretty
forever as they will in the picture."

While Marjorie spoke, the lady had been adding more color to the
sketch, and when she looked up, something warmer and brighter than
sunshine shone in her face, as she said, so cheerily, it was like a
bird's song to hear her,--

"It can't be summer always, dear, but we can make fair weather for
ourselves if we try.  The moss, the roses, and soft shadows show the
little house and the little girl at their best, and that is what we all
should do; for it is amazing how lovely common things become, if one
only knows how to look at them."

"I wish _I_ did," said Marjorie, half to herself, remembering how often
she was discontented, and how hard it was to get on, sometimes.

"So do I," said the lady, in her happy voice.  "Just believe that there
is a sunny side to every thing, and try to find it, and you will be
surprised to see how bright the world will seem, and how cheerful you
will be able to keep your little self."

"I guess granny has found that out, for she never frets.  I do, but I'm
going to stop it, because I'm twelve to-day, and that is too old for
such things," said Marjorie, recollecting the good resolutions she had
made that morning; when she woke.

"I am twice twelve, and not entirely cured yet; but I try, and don't
mean to wear blue spectacles if I can help it," answered the lady,
laughing so blithely that Marjorie was sure she would not have to try
much longer.  "Birthdays were made for presents, and I should like to
give you one.  Would it please you to have this little picture?" she
added, lifting it out of the book.

"Truly my own?  Oh, yes, indeed!" cried Marjorie, coloring with
pleasure, for she had never owned so beautiful a thing before.

"Then you shall have it, dear.  Hang it where you can see it often, and
when you look, remember that it is the sunny side of home, and help to
keep it so."

Marjorie had nothing but a kiss to offer by way of thanks, as the
lovely sketch was put into her hand; but the giver seemed quite
satisfied, for it was a very grateful little kiss.  Then the child took
up her basket and went away, not dancing and singing now, but slowly
and silently; for this gift made her thoughtful as well as glad.  As
she climbed the wall, she looked back to nod good-by to the pretty
lady; but the meadow was empty, and all she saw was the grass blowing
in the wind.

"Now, deary, run out and play, for birthdays come but once a year, and
we must make them as merry as we can," said granny, as she settled
herself for her afternoon nap, when the Saturday cleaning was all done,
and the little house as neat as wax.

So Marjorie put on a white apron in honor of the occasion, and, taking
Kitty in her arms, went out to enjoy herself.  Three swings on the gate
seemed to be a good way of beginning the festivities; but she only got
two, for when the gate creaked back the second time, it stayed shut,
and Marjorie hung over the pickets, arrested by the sound of music.

"It's soldiers," she said, as the fife and drum drew nearer, and flags
were seen waving over the barberry-bushes at the corner.

"No; it's a picnic," she added in a moment; for she saw hats with
wreaths about them bobbing up and down, as a gayly-trimmed hay-cart
full of children came rumbling down the lane.

"What a nice time they are going to have!" thought Marjorie, sadly
contrasting that merry-making with the quiet party she was having all
by herself.

Suddenly her face shone, and Kitty was waved over her head like a
banner, as she flew out of the gate, crying, rapturously,--

"It's Billy! and I know he's come for me!"

It certainly _was_ Billy, proudly driving the old horse, and beaming at
his little friend from the bower of flags and chestnut-boughs, where he
sat in state, with a crown of daisies on his sailor-hat and a spray of
blooming sweetbrier in his hand.  Waving his rustic sceptre, he led off
the shout of "Happy birthday, Marjorie!" which was set up as the wagon
stopped at the gate, and the green boughs suddenly blossomed with
familiar faces, all smiling on the little damsel, who stood in the lane
quite overpowered with delight.

"It's a s'prise party!" cried one small lad, tumbling out behind.

"We are going up the mountain to have fun!" added a chorus of voices,
as a dozen hands beckoned wildly.

"We got it up on purpose for you, so tie your hat and come away," said
a pretty girl, leaning down to kiss Marjorie, who had dropped Kitty,
and stood ready for any splendid enterprise.

A word to granny, and away went the happy child, sitting up beside
Billy, under the flags that waved over a happier load than any royal
chariot ever bore.

It would be vain to try and tell all the plays and pleasures of happy
children on a Saturday afternoon, but we may briefly say that Marjorie
found a mossy stone all ready for her throne, and Billy crowned her
with a garland like his own.  That a fine banquet was spread, and eaten
with a relish many a Lord Mayor's feast has lacked.  Then how the whole
court danced and played together afterward!  The lords climbed trees
and turned somersaults, the ladies gathered flowers and told secrets
under the sweetfern-bushes, the queen lost her shoe jumping over the
waterfall, and the king paddled into the pool below and rescued it.  A
happy little kingdom, full of summer sunshine, innocent delights, and
loyal hearts; for love ruled, and the only war that disturbed the
peaceful land was waged by the mosquitoes as night came on.

Marjorie stood on her throne watching the sunset while her maids of
honor packed up the remains of the banquet, and her knights prepared
the chariot.  All the sky was gold and purple, all the world bathed in
a soft, red light, and the little girl was very happy as she looked
down at the subjects who had served her so faithfully that day.

"Have you had a good time, Marjy?" asked King William; who stood below,
with his royal nose on a level with her majesty's two dusty little
shoes.

"Oh, Billy, it has been just splendid!  But I don't see why you should
all be so kind to me," answered Marjorie, with such a look of innocent
wonder, that Billy laughed to see it.

"Because you are so sweet and good, we can't help loving you,--that's
why," he said, as if this simple fact was reason enough.

"I'm going to be the best girl that ever was, and love everybody in the
world," cried the child, stretching out her arms as if ready, in the
fulness of her happy heart, to embrace all creation.

"Don't turn into an angel and fly away just yet, but come home, or
granny will never lend you to us any more."

With that, Billy jumped her down, and away they ran, to ride gayly back
through the twilight, singing like a flock of nightingales.

As she went to bed that night, Marjorie looked at the red bank, the
pretty picture, and the daisy crown, saying to herself,--

"It has been a _very_ nice birthday, and I am something like the girl
in the story, after all, for the old man gave me a good-luck penny, the
kind lady told me how to keep happy, and Billy came for me like the
prince.  The girl didn't go back to the poor house again, but I'm glad
_I_ did, for my granny isn't a cross one, and my little home is the
dearest in the world."

Then she tied her night-cap, said her prayers, and fell asleep; but the
moon, looking in to kiss the blooming face upon the pillow, knew that
three good spirits had come to help little Marjorie from that day
forth, and their names were Industry, Cheerfulness, and Love.



IX.

PATTY'S PLACE.



I.

HOW SHE FOUND IT.

Patty stood at one of the windows of the Asylum, looking thoughtfully
down into the yard, where twenty girls were playing.

All had cropped heads, all wore brown gowns and blue aprons, and all
were orphans like herself.  Some were pretty and some plain, some rosy
and gay, some pale and feeble, but all seemed happy and having a good
time in spite of many drawbacks.

More than once one of them nodded and beckoned to Patty, but she shook
her head decidedly, and still stood, listlessly watching them, and
thinking to herself with a child's impatient spirit,--

"Oh, if some one would only come and take me away!  I'm so tired of
living here I don't think I can bear it much longer."

Poor Patty might well wish for a change; for she had been in the Asylum
ever since she could remember; but though every one was kind to her,
she was heartily tired of the place, and longed to find a home as many
of the girls did.

The children were nursed and taught until old enough to help
themselves, then were adopted by people or went out to service.  Now
and then some forlorn child was claimed by relatives who had discovered
it, and once the relatives of a little girl proved to be rich and
generous people, who came for Katy in a fine carriage, treated all the
other girls in honor of the happy day, and from time to time let Katy
visit them with hands full of gifts for her former playmates and
friends.

This event had made a great stir in the Asylum, and the children were
never tired of talking it over and telling it to new comers as a modern
sort of fairy tale.  For a time, each hoped to be claimed in the same
way, and stories of what they would do when their turn came was one of
the favorite amusements of the house.

By and by Katy ceased to come, and gradually new girls took the place
of those that left, and her good fortune was forgotten by all but
Patty.  To her it always remained a splendid possibility, and she
comforted her loneliness by visions of the day when her "folks" would
come for her, and bear her away to a future of luxury and pleasure,
rest and love.

But no one came, and year after year Patty worked and waited, saw
others chosen and herself left to the many duties and few pleasures of
her dull life.  The reason why she was not taken was because of her
pale face, her short figure, with one shoulder higher than the other,
and her shy ways.  She was not ill now, but looked so, and was a sober,
quiet little woman at thirteen.

People who came for pets chose the pretty little ones; and those who
wanted servants took the tall, strong, merry-faced girls, who spoke up
brightly and promised to learn and do any thing required of them.

The good matron often recommended Patty as a neat, capable, gentle
little person, but no one seemed to want her, and after every failure
her heart grew heavier and her face sadder, for the thought of spending
her life there was unbearable.

Nobody guessed what a world of hopes and thoughts and feelings was
hidden under that blue pinafore, what dreams the solitary child
enjoyed, or what a hungry, aspiring young soul lived in that crooked
little body.

But God knew; and when the time came He remembered Patty and sent her
the help best fitted for her needs.  Sometimes, when we least expect
it, a small cross proves a lovely crown, a seemingly unimportant event
becomes a life-long experience, or a stranger changes into a friend.

It happened so now; for as Patty said aloud with a great sigh, "I don't
think I _can_ bear it any longer!" a hand touched her shoulder, and a
voice said, gently,--

"Bear what, my child?"

The touch was so light and the voice so kind that Patty answered before
she had time to feel shy.

"Living here, ma'am, and never being chosen out like the other girls
are."

"Tell me all about it, dear.  I'm waiting for a friend, and I'd like to
hear your troubles," sitting down in the window-seat and drawing Patty
beside her.

She was not young, nor pretty, nor finely dressed, only a gray-haired
woman in plain black; but her face was so motherly, her eyes so
cheerful, and her voice so soothing, that Patty felt at ease in a
minute, and nestled up to her as she told her little woes in a few
simple words.

"You don't know any thing about your parents?" asked the lady.

"No, ma'am; I was left here a baby without even a name pinned to me,
and no one has come to find me.  But I shouldn't wonder if they did
yet, so I keep ready all the time and learn as hard as I can, so they
won't be ashamed of me, for I guess my folks is respectable," and Patty
lifted her head with an air of pride that made the lady ask, with a
smile,--

"What makes you think so?"

"Well, I heard the matron tell a lady who chose Nelly Brian that she
always thought _I_ came of high folks because I was so different from
the others, and my ways was nice, and my feet so small,--see if they
ain't,"--and, slipping them out of the rough shoes she wore, Patty held
up two slender little feet with the arched insteps that tell of good
birth.

Miss Murry laughed right out at the innocent vanity of the poor child,
and said, heartily, "They are small, and so are your hands in spite of
work, and your hair is fine, and your eyes are soft and clear, and you
are a good child I'm sure, which is best of all."

Pleased and touched by the praise that is so pleasant to us all, yet
half ashamed of herself, Patty blushed and smiled, put on her shoes,
and said, with unusual animation,--

"I'm pretty good, I believe, and I know I'd be much better if I only
could get out.  I do so long to see trees and grass, and sit in the sun
and hear birds.  I'd work real hard and be happy if I could live in the
country."

"What can you do?" asked Miss Murry, stroking the smooth head and
looking down into the wistful eyes fixed upon her.

Modestly, but with a flutter of hope at her heart, Patty told over her
domestic accomplishments, a good list for a thirteen-year-older, but
Patty had been drilling so long she was unusually clever at all sorts
of house-work as well as needle-work.

As she ended, she asked, timidly,--

"Did you come for a girl, ma'am?"

"My sister did; but she has found one she likes, and is going to take
her on trial," was the answer that made the light fade out of Patty's
eyes and the hope die in her heart.

"Who is it, please?"

"Lizzie Brown, a tall, nice-looking girl of fourteen."

"You won't like her I know, for Lizzie is a real ----;" there Patty
stopped short, turned red, and looked down, as if ashamed to meet the
keen, kind eyes fixed on her.

"A real what?"

"Please, ma'am, don't ask; it was mean of me to say that, and I mustn't
go on.  Lizzie can't help being good with you, and I am glad she's got
a chance to go away."

Miss Murry asked no more questions; but she liked the little glimpse of
character, and tried to brighten Patty's face again by talking of
something she liked.

"Suppose your 'folks,' as you say, never come for you, and you never
find your fortune, as some girls do, can't you make friends and fortune
for yourself?"

"How can I?" questioned Patty, wonderingly.

"By taking cheerfully whatever comes, by being helpful and affectionate
to all, and wasting no time in dreaming about what may happen, but
bravely making each day a comfort and a pleasure to yourself and
others.  Can you do that?"

"I can try, ma'am," answered Patty, meekly.

"I wish you would; and when I come again you can tell me how you get
on.  I think you will succeed; and when you do, you will have found a
fine fortune, and be sure of friends.  Now I must go; cheer up, deary,
your turn must come some day."

With a kiss that won Patty's heart, Miss Murry went away, casting more
than one look of pity at the little figure in the window-seat, sobbing,
with a blue pinafore over its face.

This disappointment was doubly hard to Patty; because Lizzie was not a
good girl, and deserved nothing, and Patty had taken a great fancy to
the lady who spoke so kindly to her.

For a week after this she went about her work with a sad face, and all
her day-dreams were of living with Miss Murry in the country.

Monday afternoon, as she stood sprinkling clothes, one of the girls
burst in, saying, all in a breath,--

"Somebody's come for you, and you are to go right up to the parlor.
It's Mrs. Murry, and she's brought Liz back, 'cause she told fibs, and
was lazy, and Liz is as mad as hops, for it is a real nice place, with
cows, and pigs, and children; and the work ain't hard and she wanted to
stay.  Do hurry, and don't stand staring at me that way."

"It can't be me--no one ever wants me--it's some mistake"--stammered
Patty, so startled and excited, she did not know what to say or do.

"No, it isn't.  Mrs. Murry won't have any one but _you_, and the matron
says you are to come right up.  Go along; I'll finish here.  I'm _so_
glad you have got a chance at last;" and with a good-natured hug, the
girl pushed Patty out of the kitchen.

In a few minutes Patty came flying back, all in a twitter of delight,
to report that she was going at once, and must say good-by all round.
Every one was pleased, and when the flurry was over, the carriage drove
away with the happiest little girl ever seen inside, for at last some
one _did_ want her, and Patty _had_ found a place.



II.

HOW SHE FILLED IT.

For a year Patty lived with the Murrys, industrious, docile, and
faithful, but not yet happy, because she had not found all she
expected.  They were kind to her, as far as plenty of food and not too
much work went.  They clothed her comfortably, let her go to church,
and did not scold her very often.  But no one showed that they loved
her, no one praised her efforts, no one seemed to think that she had
any hope or wish beyond her daily work, and no one saw in the shy,
quiet little maid-servant, a lonely, tender-hearted girl longing for a
crumb of the love so freely given to the children of the house.

The Murrys were busy people; the farm was large, and the master and his
eldest son were hard at it all summer.  Mrs. Murry was a brisk, smart
housewife, who "flew round" herself, and expected others to do
likewise.  Pretty Ella, the daughter, was about Patty's age, and busy
with her school, her little pleasures, and all the bright plans young
girls love and live in.  Two or three small lads rioted about the
house, making much work, and doing very little.

One of these boys was lame, and this fact seemed to establish a sort of
friendly understanding between him and Patty, for he was the only one
who ever expressed any regard for her.  She was very good to him,
always ready to help him, always patient with his fretfulness, and
always quick to understand his sensitive nature.

"She's only a servant, a charity girl who works for her board, and
wears my old duds.  She's good enough in her place, but of course she
can't expect to be like one of us," Ella said to a young friend once,
and Patty heard her.

"Only a servant"--that was the hard part, and it never occurred to any
one to make it softer; so Patty plodded on, still hoping and dreaming
about friends and fortune.

If it had not been for Miss Murry I fear the child would not have got
on at all.  But Aunt Jane never forgot her, though she lived twenty
miles away, and seldom came to the farm.  She wrote once a month, and
always put in a little note to Patty, which she expected to have
answered.

So Patty wrote a neat reply, very stiff and short at first; but after a
time she quite poured out her heart to this one friend who sent her
encouraging words, cheered her with praise now and then, and made her
anxious to be all Miss Jane seemed to expect.  No one took much notice
of this correspondence, for Aunt Jane was odd, and Patty used to post
her replies herself, being kindly provided with stamps by her friend.

This was Patty's anchor in her little sea of troubles, and she clung to
it, hoping that some time, when she had earned such a beautiful reward,
she would go and live with Miss Murry.

Christmas was coming, and great fun was expected; for the family were
to pass the day before at Aunt Jane's, and bring her home for the
dinner and dance next day.  For a week beforehand, Mrs. Murry flew
round with more than her accustomed speed, and Patty trotted from
morning till night, lending a hand at all the least agreeable jobs.
Ella did the light, pretty work, and spent much time over her new
dress, and the gifts she was making for the boys.

Every thing was done at last, and Mrs. Murry declared that she should
drop if she had another thing to do but go to Jane's and rest.

Patty had lived on the hope of going with them; but nothing was said
about it, and they all trooped gayly away to the station, leaving her
to take care of the house, and see that the cat did not touch one of
the dozen pies stored away in the pantry.

Patty kept up bravely till they were gone; then she sat down like
Cinderella, and cried, and cried until she couldn't cry any more, for
it did seem as if she never was to have any fun, and no fairy godmother
came to help her.  The shower did her good, and she went about her work
with a meek, patient face that would have touched a heart of stone.

All the morning she finished up the odd jobs left her to do, and in the
afternoon, as the only approach to a holiday she dared venture, she sat
at the parlor window and watched other people go to and fro, intent on
merry-makings in which she had no part.

One pleasant little task she had, and that was arranging gifts for the
small boys.  Miss Jane had given her a bit of money now and then, and
out of her meagre store the affectionate child had made presents for
the lads; poor ones, but full of good-will and the desire to win some
in return.

The evening was very long, for the family did not return as early as
they expected to do, so Patty got out her treasure-box, and, sitting on
the warm kitchen hearth, tried to amuse herself, while the wind howled
outside and snow fell fast.

There we must leave her for a little while, quite unconscious of the
happy surprise that was being prepared for her.

When Aunt Jane welcomed the family, her first word, as she emerged from
a chaos of small boys' arms and legs, was "Why, where is Patty?"

"At home, of course; where should she be?" answered Mrs. Murry.

"Here with you.  I said '_all come_' in my letter; didn't you
understand it?"

"Goodness, Jane, you didn't mean bring her too, I hope."

"Yes, I did, and I'm so disappointed I'd go and get her if I had time."

Miss Jane knit her brows and looked vexed, as Ella laughed at the idea
of a servant's going pleasuring with the family.

"It can't be helped now, so we'll say no more, and make it up to Patty
to-morrow, if we can."  And Aunt Jane smiled her own pleasant smile,
and kissed the little lads all round, as if to sweeten her temper as
soon as possible.

They had a capital time, and no one observed that Aunty now and then
led the talk to Patty, asked a question about her, caught up every
little hint dropped by the boys concerning her patience and kindness,
and when Mrs. Murry said, as she sat resting, with a cushion at her
back, a stool at her feet, and a cup of tea steaming deliciously under
her nose,--

"Afraid to leave her there in charge?  Oh, dear no!  I've entire
confidence in her, and she is equal to taking care of the house for a
week if need be.  On the whole, Jane, I consider her a pretty promising
girl.  She isn't very quick, but she is faithful, steady, and honest as
daylight."

"High praise from you, Maria; I hope she knows your good opinion of
her."

"No, indeed; it don't do to pamper up a girl's pride by praising her.
I say, 'Very well, Patty,' when I'm satisfied, and that's enough."

"Ah, but _you_ wouldn't be satisfied if George only said, 'Very well,
Maria,' when you had done your very best to please him in some way."

"That's a different thing," began Mrs. Murry, but Miss Jane shook her
head, and Ella said, laughing,--

"It's no use to try and convince Aunty on that point, she has taken a
fancy to Pat, and won't see any fault in her.  She's a good child
enough; but I can't get any thing out of her, she is so odd and shy."

"I can; she's first rate, and takes care of me better than any one
else," said Harry, the lame boy, with sudden warmth, for Patty had
quite won his selfish little heart by many services.

"She'll make mother a nice helper as she grows up, and I consider it a
good speculation.  In four years she'll be eighteen, and if she goes on
doing so well, I shan't begrudge her wages," added Mr. Murry, who sat
near by, with a small son on each knee.

"She'd be quite pretty if she was straight, and plump, and jolly.  But
she is as sober as a deacon, and when her work is done, sits in a
corner, watching us with her big eyes, as shy and mute as a mouse,"
said Ned, the big brother, lounging on the sofa.

"A dull, steady-going girl, just fitted for a servant, and no more,"
concluded Mrs. Murry, setting down her cup as if the subject was ended.

"You are quite mistaken, and I'll prove it!" and up jumped Aunt Jane so
energetically, that the boys laughed and the elders looked annoyed.
Pulling out a portfolio, Aunt Jane untied a little bundle of letters,
saying impressively,--

"Now listen, all of you, and see what has been going on under Patty's
blue pinafore this year."

Then Miss Jane read the little letters one by one, and it was curious
to see how the faces of the listeners woke up, grew attentive first,
then touched, then self-reproachful, and finally how full of interest,
and respect, and something very like affection for little Patty.

These letters were pathetic to read, as Aunty read them to listeners
who could supply much that the writer generously left unsaid, and the
involuntary comments of the hearers proved the truth of Patty's words.

"_Does_ she envy me because I'm 'pretty and gay, and have a good time?'
I never thought how hard it must be for her to see me have all the fun,
and she all the work.  She's a girl like me, though she does grub; and
I might have done more for her than give her my old clothes, and let
her help dress me when I go to a party," said Ella, hastily, as Aunt
Jane laid down one letter in which poor Patty told of many "good times
and she not in 'em."

"Sakes alive, if I'd known the child wanted me to kiss her now and
then, as I do the rest, I'd have done it in a minute," said Mrs. Murry,
with sudden softness in her sharp eyes, as Aunt Jane read this little
bit,--

"I _am_ grateful, but, oh!  I'm so lonely, and it's so hard not to have
any mother like the children.  If Mrs. Murry would only kiss me
good-night sometimes, it would do me more good than pretty clothes or
nice victuals."

"I've been thinking I'd let her go to school a spell, ever since I
heard her showing Bob how to do his lessons.  But mother didn't think
she could spare her," broke in Mr. Murry, apologetically.

"If Ella would help a little, I guess I could.  Anyway, we might try a
while, since she is so eager to learn," added his wife, anxious not to
seem unjust to sister Jane.

"Well, Joe laughed at her as well as me, when the boys hunched up their
shoulders the way she does," cried conscience-stricken Bob, as he heard
a sad little paragraph about her crooked figure, and learned that it
came from lugging heavy babies at the Asylum.

"I cuffed 'em both for it, and _I_ have always liked Patty," said
Harry, in a moral tone, which moved Ned to say,--

"You'd be a selfish little rascal if you didn't, when she slaves so for
you and gets no thanks for it.  Now that I know how it tires her poor
little back to carry wood and water, I shall do it of course.  If she'd
only told me, I'd have done it all the time."

And so it went on till the letters were done, and they knew Patty as
she was, and each felt sorry that he or she had not found her out
before.  Aunt Jane freed her mind upon the subject, and they talked it
over till quite an enthusiastic state of feeling set in, and Patty was
in danger of being killed with kindness.

It is astonishing how generous and kind people are when once waked up
to a duty, a charity, or a wrong.  Now, every one was eager to repair
past neglect, and if Aunt Jane had not wisely restrained them, the
young folks would have done something absurd.

They laid many nice little plans to surprise Patty, and each privately
resolved not only to give her a Christmas gift, but, what was better,
to turn over a new leaf for the new year.

All the way home they talked over their various projects, and the boys
kept bouncing into Aunt Jane's seat, to ask advice about their funny
ideas.

"It must have been rather lonesome for the poor little soul all day.  I
declare I wish we'd taken her along," said Mrs. Murry, as they
approached the house, through the softly-falling snow.

"She's got a jolly good fire all ready for us, and that's a mercy, for
I'm half frozen," said Harry, hopping up the step.

"Don't you think if I touch up my blue merino it would fit Patty, and
make a nice dress for to-morrow, with one of my white aprons?"
whispered Ella, as she helped Aunt Jane out of the sleigh.

"Hope the child isn't sick or scared; it's two hours later than I
expected to be at home," added Mr. Murry, stepping up to peep in at the
kitchen window, for no one came to open the door, and no light but the
blaze of the fire shone out.

"Come softly and look in; it's a pretty little sight, if it is in a
kitchen," he whispered, beckoning to the rest.

Quietly creeping to the two low windows, they all looked in, and no one
said a word, for the lonely little figure was both pretty and pathetic,
when they remembered the letters lately read.  Flat on the old rug lay
Patty fast asleep; one arm pillowed her head, and in the other lay Puss
in a cosy bunch, as if she had crept there to be sociable, since there
was no one else to share Patty's long vigil.  A row of slippers, large
and small, stood warming on the hearth, two little nightgowns hung over
a chair, the tea-pot stood in a warm nook, and through the open door
they could see the lamp burning brightly in the sitting-room, the table
ready, and all things in order.

"Faithful little creature!  She's thought of every blessed thing, and
I'll go right in and wake her up with a good kiss!" cried Mrs. Murry,
making a dart at the door.

But Aunt Jane drew her back, begging her not to frighten the child by
any sudden demonstrations.  So they all went softly in, so softly that
tired Patty did not wake, even though Puss pricked up her ears and
opened her moony eyes with a lazy purr.

"Look here," whispered Bob, pointing to the poor little gifts half
tumbling out of Patty's apron.  She had been pinning names on them when
she fell asleep, and so her secret was known too soon.

No one laughed at the presents, and Ella covered them up with a look of
tender pity at the few humble treasures in Patty's box, remembering as
she laid back what she had once called "rubbish," how full her own
boxes were of the pretty things girls love, and how easy it would have
been to add to Patty's store.

No one exactly knew how to wake up the sleeper, for she was something
more than a servant in their eyes now.  Aunt Jane settled the matter by
stooping down and taking Patty in her arms.  The big eyes opened at
once and stared up at the face above them for a moment, then a smile so
bright, so glad, shone all over the child's face that it was
transfigured, as Patty clung to Aunt Jane, crying joyously,--

"Is it really you?  I was so afraid you wouldn't come that I cried
myself to sleep about it."

Never had any of them seen such love and happiness in Patty's face
before, heard such a glad, tender sound in her voice, or guessed what
an ardent soul lay in her quiet body.

She was herself again in a minute, and, jumping up, slipped away to see
that every thing was ready, should any one want supper after the cold
drive.

They all went to bed so soon that there was no time to let out the
secret, and though Patty _was_ surprised at the kind good-nights all
said to her, she thought it was because Miss Jane brought a warmer
atmosphere with her.

Patty's surprises began early next day, for the first thing she saw on
opening her eyes was a pair of new stockings hanging at the foot of her
bed, crammed full of gifts, and several parcels lying on the table.

Didn't she have a good time opening the delightful bundles?  Didn't she
laugh and cry at the droll things the boys gave, the comfortable and
pretty things the elders sent?  And wasn't she a happy child when she
tried to say her prayers and couldn't find words beautiful enough to
express her gratitude for so much kindness?

A new Patty went down stairs that morning,--a bright-faced girl with
smiles on the mouth that used to be so sad and silent, confidence in
the timid eyes, and the magic of the heartiest good-will to make her
step light, her hand skilful, her labor a joy, and service no burden.

"They do care for me, after all, and I never will complain again," she
thought, with a glad flutter at her heart, and sudden color in her
cheeks, as every one welcomed her with a friendly "Merry Christmas,
Patty!"

It _was_ a merry Christmas, and when the bountiful dinner was spread
and Patty stood ready to wait, you can imagine her feelings as Mr.
Murry pointed to a seat near Miss Jane and said, in a fatherly tone
that made his bluff voice sweet,--

"Sit down and enjoy it with us, my girl; nobody has more right to it,
and we are all one family to-day."

Patty could not eat much, her heart was so full; but it was a splendid
feast to her, and when healths were drank she was overwhelmed by the
honor Harry did her, for he bounced up and exclaimed,--

"Now we must drink 'Our Patty, long life and good luck to her!'"

That really _was_ too much, and she fairly ran away to hide her blushes
in the kitchen roller, and work off her excitement washing dishes.

More surprises came that evening; when she went to put on her clean
calico she found the pretty blue dress and white apron laid ready on
her bed "with Ella's love."

"It's like a fairy story, and keeps getting nicer and nicer since the
godmother came," whispered Patty, as she shyly looked up at Aunt Jane,
when passing ice-cream at the party several hours later.

"Christmas is the time for all sorts of pleasant miracles, for the good
fairies fly about just then, and give good-luck pennies to the faithful
workers who have earned them," answered Miss Jane, smiling back at her
little handmaid, who looked so neat and blithe in her new suit and
happy face.

Patty thought nothing farther in the way of bliss could happen to her
that night, but it did when Ned, anxious to atone for his past neglect,
pranced up to her, as a final contra-dance was forming, and said
heartily,--

"Come, Patty, every one is to dance this, even Harry and the cat," and
before she could collect her wits enough to say "No," she was leading
off and flying down the middle with the young master in great style.

That was the crowning honor; for she was a girl with all a girl's
innocent hopes, fears, desires and delights, and it _had_ been rather
hard to stand by while all the young neighbors were frolicking together.

When every one was gone, the tired children asleep, and the elders on
their way up to bed, Mrs. Murry suddenly remembered she had not covered
the kitchen fire.  Aunt Jane said she would do it, and went down so
softly that she did not disturb faithful Patty, who had gone to see
that all was safe.

Aunt Jane stopped to watch the little figure standing on the hearth
alone, looking into the embers with thoughtful eyes.  If Patty could
have seen her future there, she would have found a long life spent in
glad service to those she loved and who loved her.  Not a splendid
future, but a useful, happy one; "only a servant," yet a good and
faithful woman, blessed with the confidence, respect and affection of
those who knew her genuine worth.

As a smile broke over Patty's face, Miss Jane said, with an arm round
the little blue-gowned figure,--

"What are you dreaming and smiling about, deary?  The friends that are
to come for you some day, with a fine fortune in their pockets?"

"No, ma'am, I feel as if I'd found my folks, and I don't want any finer
fortune than the love they've given me to-day.  I'm trying to think how
I can deserve it, and smiling because it's so beautiful and I'm so
happy," answered Patty, looking up at her first friend with full eyes
and a glad, grateful glance that made her lovely.



X.

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN OMNIBUS.

I was born in Springfield,--excuse me if I don't mention how many years
ago, for my memory is a little treacherous on some points, and it does
not matter in the least.  I was a gay young 'bus, with a long, red
body, yellow wheels, and a picture of Washington on each side.
Beautiful portraits, I assure you, with powdered hair, massive nose,
and a cataract of shirt-frill inundating his buff vest.  His coat and
eyes were wonderfully blue, and he stared at the world in general with
superb dignity, no matter how much mud might temporarily obscure his
noble countenance.

Yes, I was an omnibus to be proud of; for my yellow wheels rumbled
sonorously as they rolled; my cushions were soft, my springs elastic,
and my varnish shone with a brilliancy which caused the human eye to
wink as it regarded me.

Joe Quimby first mounted my lofty perch, four fine gray horses drew me
from obscurity, and Bill Buffum hung gayly on behind as conductor; for
in my early days there were no straps to jerk, and passengers did not
plunge in and out in the undignified way they do now.

How well I remember my first trip, one bright spring day!  I was to run
between Roxbury and Boston, and we set out in great style, and an
admiring crowd to see us off.  That was the beginning of a long and
varied career,--a useful one too, I hope; for never did an omnibus
desire to do its duty more sincerely than I did.  My heart yearned over
every one whom I saw plodding along in the dust; my door opened
hospitably to rich and poor, and no hand beckoned to me in vain.  Can
every one say as much?

For years I trundled to and fro punctually at my appointed hours, and
many curious things I saw--many interesting people I carried.  Of
course, I had my favorites, and though I did my duty faithfully to all,
there were certain persons whom I loved to carry, whom I watched for
and received into my capacious bosom with delight.

Several portly old gentlemen rode down to their business every day for
years, and I felt myself honored by such eminently respectable
passengers.  Nice, motherly women, with little baskets, daily went to
market; for in earlier days housewives attended to these matters and
were notable managers.  Gay young fellows would come swarming up beside
Joe, and crack jokes all the way into town, amusing me immensely.

But my especial pets were the young girls,--for we had girls
then,--blithe, bonny creatures, with health on their cheeks, modesty in
their bright eyes, and the indescribable charm of real maidenliness
about them.  So simply dressed, so quiet in manner, so unconscious of
display, and so full of innocent gayety, that the crustiest passenger
could not help softening as they came in.  Bless their dear hearts!
what would they say if they could see the little fashion-plates
school-girls are now?  The seven-story hats with jet daggers, steel
arrows, and gilt horse-shoes on the sides, peacocks' tails in front,
and quantities of impossible flowers tumbling off behind.  The jewelry,
the frills and bows, the frizzled hair and high-heeled boots, and,
worst of all, the pale faces, tired eyes, and ungirlish manners.

Well, well, I must not scold the poor dears, for they are only what the
times make them,--fast and loud, frivolous and feeble.  All are not
spoilt, thank heaven; for now and then, a fresh, modest face goes by,
and then one sees how lovely girlhood may be.

I saw many little romances, and some small tragedies, in my early days,
and learned to take such interest in human beings, that I have never
been able to become a mere machine.

When one of my worthy old gentlemen dropped away, and I saw him no
more, I mourned for him like a friend.  When one of my housewifely
women came in with a black bonnet on, and no little lad or lass
clinging to her hand, I creaked my sympathy for her loss, and tried not
to jolt the poor mother whose heart was so heavy.  When one of my
pretty girls entered, blushing and smiling, with a lover close behind,
I was as pleased and proud as if she had been my own, and every black
button that studded my red cushion twinkled with satisfaction.

I had many warm friends among the boys who were allowed to "hang on
behind," for I never gave a dangerous lurch when they were there, and
never pinched their fingers in the door.  No, I gave a jolly rumble
when the steps were full; and I kept the father of his country beaming
so benignly at them that they learned to love his old face, to watch
for it, and to cheer it as we went by.

I was a patriotic 'bus; so you may imagine my feelings when, after
years of faithful service on that route, I was taken off and sent to
the paint-shop, where a simpering damsel, with lilies in her hair,
replaced G. Washington's honored countenance.  I was re-christened "The
Naiad Queen," which disgusted me extremely, and kept to carry picnic
parties to a certain lake.

Earlier in my life I should have enjoyed the fun; but I was now a
middle-aged 'bus, and felt as if I wanted more serious work to do.
However, I resigned myself and soon found that the change did me good;
for in the city I was in danger of getting grimy with mud, battered
with banging over stones, and used up with the late hours, noise and
excitement of town life.

Now I found great refreshment in carrying loads of gay young people
into the country for a day of sunshine, green grass, and healthful
pleasure.  What jolly parties they were, to be sure!  Such laughing and
singing, feasting and frolicking; such baskets of flowers and fresh
boughs as they carried home; and, better still, such blooming cheeks,
happy eyes, and hearts bubbling over with the innocent gayety of youth!
They soon seemed as fond of me as I was of them, for they welcomed me
with shouts when I came, played games and had banquets inside of me
when sun or rain made shelter pleasant, trimmed me up with wreaths as
we went home in triumph, and gave three rousing cheers for the old 'bus
when we parted.  That was a happy time, and it furnished many a
pleasant memory for duller days.

After several seasons of picnicking, I was taken to an asylum for the
deaf, dumb, and blind, and daily took a dozen or so out for an airing.
You can easily imagine this was a great contrast to my last place; for
now, instead of rollicking parties of boys and girls, I took a sad load
of affliction; and it grieved me much to know that while some of the
poor little creatures could see nothing of the beauty round them, the
others could hear none of the sweet summer sounds, and had no power to
express their happiness in blithe laughter or the gay chatter one so
loves to hear.

But it did me good; for, seeing them so patient with their great
troubles, I was ashamed to grumble about my small ones.  I was now
getting to be an elderly 'bus, with twinges of rheumatism in my
axletrees, many cracks like wrinkles on my once smooth paint, and an
asthmatic creak to the hinges of the door that used to swing so smartly
to and fro.  Yes, I was evidently getting old, for I began to think
over my past, to recall the many passengers I had carried, the crusty
or jolly coachmen I had known, the various horses who had tugged me
over stony streets or dusty roads, and the narrow escapes I had had in
the course of my career.

Presently I found plenty of time for such reminiscences, for I was put
away in an old stable and left there undisturbed a long, long time.  At
first, I enjoyed the rest and quiet; but I was of a social turn, and
soon longed for the stirring life I had left.  I had no friends but a
few gray hens, who roosted on my pole, laid eggs in the musty straw on
my floor, and came hopping gravely down my steps with important "cut,
cut, ka da cuts!" when their duty was done.  I respected these worthy
fowls, and had many a gossip with them; but their views were very
limited, and I soon tired of their domestic chat.

Chanticleer was coachman now, as in the days of Partlet and the nuts;
but he never drove out, only flew up to my roof when he crowed, and sat
there, in his black and yellow suit, like a diligence-driver sounding
his horn.  Interesting broods of chickens were hatched inside, and took
their first look at life from my dingy windows.  I felt a grandfatherly
fondness for the downy things, and liked to have them chirping and
scratching about me, taking small flights from my steps, and giving
funny little crows in imitation of their splendid papa.

Sundry cats called often, for rats and mice haunted the stable, and
these gray-coated huntsmen had many an exciting chase among my
moth-eaten cushions, over the lofts, and round the grain-bags.

"Here I shall end my days," I thought, and resigned myself to
obscurity.  But I was mistaken; for just as I was falling out of one
long doze into another, a terrible commotion among the cats, hens, and
mice woke me up, and I found myself trundling off to the paint-shop
again.

I emerged from that fragrant place in a new scarlet coat, trimmed with
black and ornamented with a startling picture of a salmon-colored
Mazeppa, airily dressed in chains and a blue sheet, hanging by one foot
to the back of a coal-black steed with red nostrils and a tempestuous
tail, who was wildly careering over a range of pea-green mountains on
four impossible legs.  It was much admired; but I preferred George
Washington, like the loyal 'bus that I am.

I found I was to live in the suburbs and carry people to and from the
station of a new railway, which, with the town, seemed to have sprung
up like mushrooms.  Well, I bumped passengers about the half-finished
streets; but I did not like it, for every thing had changed much during
my retirement.  Everybody seemed in a tearing hurry now,--the men to be
rich, the women to be fine; the boys and girls couldn't wait to grow
up, but flirted before they were in their teens; and the very babies
scrambled out of their cradles as if each was bent on toddling farther
and faster than its neighbor.  My old head quite spun round at the
whirl every thing was in, and my old wheels knew no rest, for the new
coachman drove like Jehu.

It is my private opinion that I should soon have fallen to pieces if a
grand smash had not settled the matter for me.  A gay young fellow
undertook to drive, one dark night, and upset his load in a ditch,
fortunately breaking no bones but mine.  So I was sent to a carriage
factory for repairs; but, apparently, my injuries were past cure, for I
was left on a bit of waste land behind the factory, to go to ruin at
leisure.

"This is the end of all things," I said, with a sigh, as year after
year went by and I stood there alone, covered with wintry snow or
blistered by summer sunshine.  But how mistaken I was! for just when
all seemed most sad and solitary, the happiest experience of my life
came to me, and all the world was brightened for me by the coming of my
dearest friends.

One chilly spring night, when rain was falling, and the wind sighed
dismally over the flats, I was waked from a nap by voices and the
rustling of straw inside my still strong body.

"Some tramp," I thought, with a yawn, for I had often taken lodgers for
a night, rent free.  But the sounds I now heard were the voices of
children, and I listened with interest to the little creatures chirping
and nestling in there like the chickens I told you of.

"It's as nice as a house, Hans, and so warm I'll soon be dry," said one
of the homeless birds who had taken shelter in my bosom.

"It's nicer than a house, Gretchen, because we can push it about if we
like.  I wish we could stay here always; I'm so tired of the streets,"
sighed another young voice.

"And I'm so hungry; I do wish mother would come," cried a very tired
baby voice, with a sob.

"Hush, go to sleep, my Lina!  I'll wake you if mother brings us bread,
and if not you will feel no disappointment, dear."

Then the elder sister seemed to wrap the little one close, and out of
my bosom came a soft lullaby, as one child gave the other all she
had,--love and care.

"In the shed yonder I saw a piece of carpet; I shall go and bring it to
cover us, then you will not shiver so, dear Gretchen," said the boy;
and out into the rainy darkness he went, whistling to keep his spirits
up and hide his hunger.

Soon he came hurrying back with the rude coverlet, and another voice
was heard, saying, in the tone that only mothers use,--

"Here is supper, dear children.  Eat all; I have no wish for any more.
People were very good to me, and there is enough for every one."

Then, with cries of joy, the hungry birds were fed, the motherly wings
folded over them, and all seemed to sleep in the poor nest they had
found.

All night the rain pattered on my old roof, but not a drop went
through; all night the chilly wind crept round my windows, and breathed
in at every broken pane, but the old carpet kept the sleepers warm, and
weariness was a sure lullaby.  How pleased and proud I felt that I
could still be useful, and how eagerly I waited for day to see yet more
of my new tenants!  I knew they would go soon and leave me to my
loneliness, so I longed to see and hear all I could.

The first words the mother said, as she sat upon the step in the warm
April sun, pleased me immensely, for they were of me.

"Yes, Hans, it will be well to stay here a day at least, if we may, for
Lina is worn out and poor Gretchen so tired she can go no more.  You
shall guard them while they sleep, and I will go again for food, and
may get work.  It is better out here in the sun than in some poor place
in the city, and I like it well, this friendly old carriage that
sheltered us when most we needed it."

So the poor woman trudged away, like a true mother-bird, to find food
for the ever-hungry brood, and Hans, a stout lad of twelve, set about
doing his part manfully.

When he heard the workmen stirring in the great factory, he took
courage, and, going in, told his sad tale of the little tired sisters
sleeping in the old omnibus, the mother seeking work, the father lately
dead, and he (the young lad) left to guard and help the family.  He
asked for nothing but leave to use the bit of carpet, and for any
little job whereby he might earn a penny.

The good fellows had fatherly hearts under their rough jackets, and
lent a helping hand with the readiness the poor so often show in
lightening one another's burdens.  Each did what he could; and when the
mother came back, she found the children fed and warmed, cheered by
kind words and the promise of help.

Ah! it was a happy day for me when the Schmidts came wandering by and
found my door ajar!  A yet happier one for them, since the workmen and
their master befriended the poor souls so well that in a week the
houseless family had a home, and work whereby to earn their bread.

They had taken a fancy to me, and I was their home; for they were a
hardy set and loved the sun and air.  Clever Hans and his mother made
me as neat and cosy as possible, stowing away their few possessions as
if on shipboard.  The shed was given to mother Schmidt for a
wash-house, and a gypsy fire built on the ground, with an old kettle
slung over it, in which to boil the clothes she washed for such of the
men as had no wives.  Hans and Gretchen soon found work selling chips
and shavings from the factory, and bringing home the broken food they
begged by the way.  Baby Lina was a universal pet, and many a sixpence
found its way into her little hand from the pockets of the kindly men,
who took it out in kisses, or the pretty songs she sang them.

All that summer my family prospered, and I was a happy old 'bus.  A
proud one, too; for the dear people loved me well, and, in return for
the shelter I gave them, they beautified me by all the humble means in
their power.  Some one gave Gretchen a few scarlet beans, and these she
planted among the dandelions and green grass that had grown about my
wheels.  The gay runners climbed fast, and when they reached the roof,
Hans made a trellis of old barrel hoops, over which they spread their
broad leaves and bright flowers till Lina had a green little bower up
aloft, where she sat, as happy as a queen, with the poor toys which her
baby fancy changed to playthings of the loveliest sort.

Mother Schmidt washed and ironed busily all day in her shed, cooked the
soup over her gypsy fire, and when the daily work was done sat in the
shadow of the old omnibus with her children round her, a grateful and
contented woman.  If any one asked her what she would do when our
bitter winter came, the smile on her placid face grew graver, but did
not vanish, as she laid her worn hands together and answered, with
simple faith,--

"The good Gott who gave us this home and raised up these friends will
not forget us, for He has such as we in His especial charge."

She was right; for the master of the great factory was a kind man, and
something in the honest, hard-working family interested him so much
that he could not let them suffer, but took such friendly thought for
them that he wrought one of the pleasant miracles which keep a rich
man's memory green in grateful hearts, though the world may never know
of it.

When autumn came and the pretty bower began to fade, the old omnibus to
be cold at night, and the shed too gusty even for the hardy German
laundress, a great surprise was planned and gayly carried out.  On the
master's birthday the men had a holiday, and bade the Schmidts be ready
to take part in the festival, for all the factory people were to have a
dinner in one of the long rooms.

A jovial time they had; and when the last bone had been polished off,
the last health drunk, and three rousing cheers for the master given
with a will, the great joke took place.  First the Schmidts were told
to go and see what had been left for them in the 'bus, and off they
ran, little dreaming what was to come.  _I_ knew all about it, and was
in a great twitter, for I bore a grand part in it.

The dear unsuspecting family piled in, and were so busy having raptures
over certain bundles of warm clothes found there that they did not mind
what went on without.  A dozen of the stoutest men quietly harnessed
themselves to the rope fastened to my pole, and at a signal trotted
away with me at a great pace, while the rest, with their wives and
children, came laughing and shouting after.

Imagine the amazement of the good Schmidts at this sudden start, their
emotions during that triumphal progress, and their unspeakable surprise
and joy when their carriage stopped at the door of a tidy little house
in a lane not far away, and they were handed out to find the master
waiting to welcome them home.

Dear heart, how beautiful it all was!  I cannot describe it, but I
would not have missed it for the world, because it was one of the
scenes that do everybody so much good and leave such a pleasant memory
behind.

That was my last trip, for the joyful agitation of that day was too
much for me, and no sooner was I safely landed in the field behind the
little house than one of my old wheels fell all to pieces, and I should
have tumbled over, like a decrepit old creature, if the men had not
propped me up.  But I did not care; my travelling days were past, and I
was quite content to stand there under the apple-trees, watching my
family safe and busy in their new home.

I was not forgotten, I assure you; for Germans have much sentiment, and
they still loved the old omnibus that sheltered them when most forlorn.
Even when Hans was a worker in the factory he found time to mend me up
and keep me tidy; pretty Gretchen, in spite of much help given to the
hard-working mother, never forgot to plant some common flower to
beautify and cheer her old friend; and little Lina, bless her heart!
made me her baby-house.  She played there day after day, a tiny matron,
with her dolls, her kitten and her bits of furniture, as happy a child
as ever sang "Bye-low" to a dirty-faced rag-darling.  She is my
greatest comfort and delight; and the proudest moment of my life was
when Hans painted her little name on my door and gave me to her for her
own.

Here my story ends; for nothing now remains to me but to crumble slowly
to ruin and go where the good 'busses go; very slowly, I am sure, for
my little mistress takes great care of me, and I shall never suffer
from rough usage any more.  I am quite happy and contented as I stand
here under the trees that scatter their white petals on my rusty roof
each spring; and well I may be, for after my busy life I am at rest;
the sun shines kindly on me, the grass grows greenly round me, good
friends cherish me in my old age, and a little child nestles in my
heart, keeping it tender to the last.



XI.

RED TULIPS.

"Please ma'am, will you give me one of them red tulips?"

The eager voice woke Helen from her reverie, and, looking up, she saw a
little colored girl holding on to the iron railing with one hand, while
the other pointed to a bed of splendid red and yellow tulips waving in
the sunshine.

"I can't give you one, child, for they don't belong to me," answered
Helen, arrested by the wistful face, over which her words brought a
shadow of disappointment.

"I thought maybe you lived in this house, or knew the folks, and I do
want one of them flowers dreadful bad," said the girl, regarding the
gay tulips with a look of intense desire.

"I wish I could give you one, but it would be stealing, you know.
Perhaps if you go and ask, the owner may let you have one, there are so
many."

And having offered all the consolation in her power, Helen went on,
busy with a certain disappointment of her own, which just then weighed
very heavily on her girlish heart.

Half an hour later, as she came down the street on the opposite side,
she saw the same girl sitting on a door-step, still gazing at the
tulips with hopeless admiration.

The child looked up as she approached, and recognizing the pretty young
lady who had spoken kindly to her, smiled and nodded so confidingly,
that Helen could not resist stopping to say,--

"Did you ask over there?"

"Yes, ma'am, but the girl said, 'No,' and told me to clear out; so I
come over here to set and look at the pretties, since I can't have
none," she answered, with a patient sigh.

"You _shall_ have some!" cried Helen, remembering how easily she could
gratify the innocent longing of the poor child, and feeling a curious
sympathy with all disappointed people.  "Come with me, dear; there is a
flower shop round the corner, and you shall have a posy of some sort."

Such wonder, gratitude and delight shone in Betty's face, that Helen
felt rejoiced for her small kindness.  As they walked, she questioned
her about herself, and quite won her heart by the friendly interest
expressed in Betty's mother, Betty's kitten, and Betty's affairs
generally.

When they came to the flower shop little Bet felt as if she had got
into a fairy tale; and when Helen gave her a pot with a blue hyacinth
and a rosy tulip blooming prettily together, she felt as if a lovely
fairy had granted all her wishes in the good old way.

"It's just splendid! and I don't know how to thank you, miss.  But
mother takes in washing, and she'll love to do yours, and plait the
ruffles elegant--'cause you done this for me!" cried Betty, embracing
the flower-pot with one hand, and squeezing Miss Helen's with the other.

Helen promised to come and see her new friend, and when they parted,
kept turning round to watch the little figure trotting up the hill,
often pausing to turn, and show her a beaming black face, all smiles
and delight, as Betty threw her kisses and hugged the dear red tulip
like a treasure of great price.

When she vanished, Helen said to herself, with a smile and a sigh,--

"There, I feel better for that little job; and it is a comfort to know
that some one has got what she wants, though it is not I."

Some weeks later, when Helen was preparing to go into the country for
the summer, and wanted certain delicate muslins done up, she remembered
what Betty had said about her mother, and had a fancy to see how the
child and her flowers prospered.

She found them in a small, poor room, hot and close, and full of
wash-tubs and flat-irons.  The mother was busy at her work, and Betty
sat by the one window, listlessly picking out ruffles.

When she saw the face at the door, she jumped up and clapped her hands,
crying, delightedly, "O mammy, it's my lady; my dear, pretty lady truly
come at last!"

Such a welcome made friends of the three at once, and Mrs. Simms gladly
undertook the work Helen offered.

"And how are the posies?" asked the young lady, as she rose to go.

"Only leaves now, miss; but I take real good care of 'em, and mammy
says they will blow again next spring," answered Betty, showing her
poor little garden, which consisted of the hyacinth, tulip, and one
stout dandelion, blooming bravely in an old teapot.

"That will be a long time to wait, won't it?"

"Yes'm; but I go and take peeks at them flowers in the shop, and once
the man gave me a pink that hadn't no stem.  Maybe he will again, and
so I'll get along," said Betty, softly touching her cheerful dandelion
as if it were a friend.

"I wish you would come and see my garden, little Betty.  You should
pick as many flowers as you liked, and play there all day long.  I
suppose your mother couldn't spare you for a visit, could she?"

Betty's face shone at the blissful thought, then the smile faded, and
she shook her head, saying, steadily, "No, miss, I guess she couldn't,
for she gets so tired, I like to help her by carrying home the clothes.
Some day, maybe, I can come."

Something in the patient little face touched Helen, and made her feel
as if she had been too busy thinking of her own burden to help others
bear theirs.  She longed to do something, but did not know how till
Mrs. Simms showed her the way, by saying, as she stroked the frizzly
little head that leaned against her,--

"Betty thinks a heap of flowers, and 'pears to git lots of comfort out
of 'em.  She's a good child, and some day we are going to see the
country, soon as ever we can afford it."

"Meantime the country must come to you," said Helen, with a happy
thought shining in her face.  "If you are willing, I will make a nice
little plan with Betty, so she can have a posy all the time.  I shall
come in town twice a week to take my German lessons, and if Betty will
be at the corner of the Park, by the deer, every Wednesday and Saturday
morning at ten o'clock, I'll have a nice nosegay for her."

If she had proposed to present the child with all the sweeties in
Copeland's delightful shop, it would not have given greater joy.  Betty
could only dance a jig of rapture among the wash-tubs, and Mrs. Simms
thank Helen with tears in her eyes.

"Ain't she just like a good fairy, mammy?" said Betty, settling down in
an empty clothes-basket to brood over the joyful prospects.

"No, honey, she's an angel," answered mammy, folding her tired hands
for a moment's rest, when her guest had gone.

Helen heard both question and answer, and sighed to herself, "I wish
somebody else thought so."

When the first Wednesday came, Betty was at the trysting-place half an
hour too soon, and had time to tell the mild-eyed deer all about it,
before Miss Helen came.

That meeting was a pretty sight, though only a fawn and an old
apple-woman saw it.  Helen was half-hidden behind a great nosegay of
June roses, lilies of the valley, sweet jonquils and narcissus, sprays
of tender green, and white lilac plumes.  Betty gave one cry of
rapture, as she clutched it in both hands, trembling with delight, for
never had she dreamed of owning such a treasure as this.

"All for me! all for me!" she said, as if it was hard to believe.  "Oh,
what _will_ mammy say?"

"Run home and see.  Never mind thanks.  Get your posy into water as
soon as you can, and come again Saturday," said Helen, as she went on,
with a nod and a smile, while Betty raced home to fill every cup and
plate they owned, and make a garden of the poor little room, where
mammy worked all day.

All through the summer, rain or shine, these two friends kept tryst,
and though Helen seemed no nearer getting her wish, this little
flower-mission of hers helped her to wait.

Strangers watched the pretty girl with her nosegays, and felt refreshed
by the winsome sight.  Friends joked her about her black Flora, and
would-be lovers pleaded in vain for one bud from her bouquets.

She found real happiness in this small duty, and did it faithfully for
its own sake, little dreaming that some one was tracking her by the
flowers she left behind her in the byways of her life.

For, seeing how much these fragrant messengers were to Betty and her
mother, Helen fell into the way of taking flowers to others also, and
never went to town without a handful to leave here and there, by some
sick-bed, in a child's hand, on a needle-woman's table, or dropped in
the gutter, for dear, dirty babies to find and crow over.

And, all unconsciously, these glimpses of poverty, pain, neglect, and
loneliness, taught her lessons she had never learned before,--a sweeter
language than German, a nobler music than any Herr Pedalstrum could
give her, and a more winning charm than either youth or beauty could
confer,--for the gay girl was discovering that life was not all a
summer day, and she was something better than a butterfly.

When autumn came, and she returned to her city home, her young friends
discovered that Helen's quiet season had improved her wonderfully, for
behind the belle, they found a tender-hearted woman.

She took up her old life where she laid it down, apparently; but to
those who knew her best, there was a difference now, for, in many
unsuspected ways, pretty Helen was unconsciously fitting herself for
the happiness that was coming to her very soon.

Betty helped to bring it, though she never guessed that her measles
were a blessing to her dear lady.  When Dr. Strong, finding a hot-house
bouquet beside her bed, very naturally asked where it came from, Betty
told all about Miss Helen, from the time of the red tulips to the fine
tea-roses in her hand.

"She has lots of bunches like these sent to her, and she gives 'em to
us poor folks.  This one was for her to take to a splendid ball, but
she kept it all fresh, and came herself to fetch it to me.  Ain't she
kind?"

"Very, to you; but rather cruel to the gentlemen who hope to see her
wear their gifts, for one evening at least," answered the doctor,
examining the bouquet, with an odd smile.

"Oh, she does keep some, when they are from folks she likes.  I was
there one day when some violets come in with a book, and she wouldn't
give me one.  But I didn't care a mite, for I had two great posies, all
red geranium and pinks, instead."

"She likes violets, then?" and the doctor gently patted Betty's head,
as if he had grown suddenly fond of her.

"I guess she does, for when I went the next week, that very bunch was
in the vase on her table, all dead and yeller, and she wouldn't let me
fling it away, when I wanted to put in a rose from the bush she gave
me."

"You are a grateful little girl, my dear, and a very observing child.
Now keep warm and quiet, and we'll have you trotting off to Miss
Helen's in a week or so."

The doctor stole a sprig of rose geranium out of Betty's last bouquet,
and went away, looking as if he had found something even sweeter than
that in the dingy room where his patient lay.

Next day Miss Helen had fresh violets in the vase on her table, and
fresh roses blooming on her cheeks.  Dr. Strong advised her not to
visit Betty, as there was fever in the neighborhood, but kindly called
every day or two, to let Helen know how her little friend was getting
on.

After one of these calls, the doctor went away, saying to himself, with
an air of tender pride and satisfaction,--

"I was mistaken, and judged too hastily last year.  Helen is not what I
thought her, a frivolous, fashionable beauty, but a sweet, sensible
girl, who is tired of that empty life, and quietly tries to make it
beautiful and useful in the best and truest way.  I hope I read the
blue eyes right; and I think I may venture to say now what I dared not
say last year."

After that same visit, Helen sat thinking to herself, with a face full
of happiness and humility,--"He finds me improved, so I have not waited
in vain, and I believe that I shall not be disappointed after all."

It is evident that the doctor did venture, and that Helen was not
disappointed; for, on the first day of June, Betty and her mother, all
in their best, went to a certain church, and were shown to the best
seat in the gallery, where several other humble friends were gathered
to see their dear Miss Helen married.

Betty was in high feather, with a pink dress, blue sack, yellow ribbons
in her hat, and lighted up the seat like an animated rainbow.  Full of
delight and importance, was Miss Betty, for she had been in the midst
of the festive preparations, and told glowing tales to her interested
listeners, while they waited for the bride.

When the music sounded, Betty held her breath, and rolled up her eyes
in a pious rapture.  When a general stir announced the grand arrival,
she leaned so far over the gallery, that she would have gone head first
if her mother had not caught her striped legs, and when the misty,
white figure passed up the aisle, Betty audibly remarked,--

"If she had wings she'd look like an out-and-out angel, wouldn't she,
mammy?"

She sat like a little ebony statue all through the service; but she had
something on her mind, and the moment the bridal couple turned to go
out, Betty was off, scrambling down stairs, dodging under people's
arms, hopping over ladies' skirts, and steadily making her way to the
carriage waiting for the happy pair.

The door had just closed, and Dr. Strong was about to draw down the
curtain, when a little black face, with a yellow hat surrounding it
like a glory, appeared at the window, an arm was thrust in offering a
bunch of flowers, and a breathless voice cried, resolutely,--

"Oh, please, do let me give 'em to my lady!  They bloomed a-purpose for
her, and she _must_ have 'em."

Those outside saw a sweet face bend to kiss the little black one, but
they did not see what happened afterward, for Helen, remembering a year
ago, said smiling,--

"Patient waiters are no losers.  The poor child has red tulips all her
own at last!"

"And I have mine," answered the happy doctor, gently kissing his young
wife, as the carriage rolled away, leaving Betty to retire in triumph.



XII.

A HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

A certain fine old lady was seventy-three on the 8th of October.  The
day was always celebrated with splendor by her children and
grand-children; but on this occasion they felt that something unusually
interesting and festive should be done, because grandma had lately been
so very ill that no one thought she would ever see another birthday.
It pleased God to spare her, however, and here she was, almost as well
and gay as ever.

Some families do not celebrate these days, and so miss a great deal of
pleasure, I think.  But the people of whom I write always made a great
deal of such occasions, and often got up very funny amusements, as you
will see.

As grandma was not very strong, some quiet fun must be devised this
time, and the surprises sprinkled along through the day, lest they
should be too much for her if they all burst upon her at once.

The morning was fine and clear, and the first thing that happened was
the appearance of two little ghosts, "all in white," who came prancing
into the old lady's room, while she lay placidly watching the sun rise,
and thinking of the many years she had seen.

"A happy birthday, gramma!" cried the little ghosts, scrambling up to
kiss the smiling old face in the ruffled night-cap.

There was a great laughing, and cuddling, and nestling among the
pillows, before the small arms and legs subsided, and two round, rosy
faces appeared, listening attentively to the stories grandma told them
till it was time to dress.

Now you must know that there were only two grandchildren in this
family, but they were equal to half a dozen, being lively, droll little
chaps, full of all manner of pranks, and considered by their relatives
the _most_ remarkable boys alive.

These two fellows were quite bursting with the great secrets of the
day, and had to rush out as soon as breakfast was done, in order to
keep from "letting the cat out of the bag."

A fine dinner was cooked, and grandma's favorite niece came to eat it
with her, bringing a bag full of goodies, and a heart full of love and
kind wishes, to the old lady.

All the afternoon, friends and presents kept coming, and Madam, in her
best gown and most imposing cap, sat in state to receive them.  A poet
came with some lovely flowers; the doctor brought a fine picture; one
neighbor sent her a basket of grapes; another took her a drive; and
some poor children, whom grandma had clothed and helped, sent her some
nuts they had picked all themselves, while their grateful mother
brought a bottle of cream and a dozen eggs.

It was very pleasant, and the bright autumn day was a little harvest
time for the old lady, who had sowed love and charity broadcast with no
thought of any reward.

The tea-table was ornamented with a splendid cake, white as snow
outside, but rich and plummy inside, with a gay posy stuck atop of the
little Mont Blanc.  Mrs. Trot, the housekeeper, made and presented it,
and it was so pretty all voted not to cut it till evening, for the
table was full of other good things.

Grandma's tea was extra strong, and tasted unusually nice with Mrs.
Hosy's rich cream in it.  She felt that she needed this refreshment to
prepare her for the grand surprise to come; for the family gifts were
not yet given.

The boys vanished directly after tea, and shouts of laughter were heard
from Aunt Tribulation's room.  What larks as they had up there no one
knew; but every one was sure they were preparing some fun in honor of
the occasion.

Grandma was not allowed to go into the study, and much tacking and
rummaging went on for a time.  Then all the lamps were collected there,
leaving grandma and grandpa to sit in the parlor, talking tenderly
together by the soft glimmer of fire-light, as they used to do forty
years ago.

Presently something scarlet and gold, feathery and strange, flitted by
the door and vanished in the study.  Queer little yells and the sound
of dancing feet were heard.  Then there was a hunt for the cat; next,
Mrs. Trot was called from the kitchen, and all but the boys came to
escort grandma to the scene of glory.

Leaning on grandpa's arm, she marched first; then came Mrs. Coobiddy,
the mother of the boys, bearing Aunt Carmine's picture; for this auntie
was over the water and could not come, so, at grandma's desire, her
portrait was borne in the procession.

Aunt Trib followed, escorted by Thomas Pib, the great cat, with his
best red bow on.  Mrs. Trot and Belinda, the little maid, brought up
the rear.  A music-box in the hall played the "Grand March" from
"Norma;" and, with great dignity, all filed into the study to behold an
imposing spectacle.

A fire burned brightly on the hearth, making the old-fashioned andirons
shine like gold.  All the lamps illuminated the room, which was trimmed
with scarlet and yellow leaves.  An arch of red woodbine, evergreen and
ferns from the White Mountains was made over the recess which held the
journals, letters and books of the family; for their name was Penn, and
they all wrote so much that blots were found everywhere about the
house, and a flock of geese lived in the back yard, all ready to have
their quills tweaked out at a minute's notice.

Before this recess stood a great arm-chair, in which the father of
grandma had been laid, a new-born baby, and nearly smothered by being
sat upon by the fat nurse.  This thrilling fact gave it a peculiar
interest to the boys; for, if great-grandpa had been smashed, where
would they have been?

In front of this ancient seat stood a round table loaded with gifts,
and on each side stood an Indian chief in full costume, bearing lighted
Chinese lanterns on the ends of their spears, and war-clubs on their
shoulders.

The arranging of these costumes had caused much labor and fun; for the
splendid crowns, a foot high, were made of hen's feathers, carefully
collected and sewed on to paper by Aunt Trib; the red shirts were
fringed and bedecked with odd devices; leather leggings went above the
warriors' knees, and all the family breast-pins were stuck about them.

Daggers, hatchets, clubs, and spears were made by the lads themselves,
and red army blankets hung gracefully from their shoulders.  They had
planned to paint their faces blue and red, like the Feejee Islanders at
Barnum's show; but Mrs. Coobiddy would not consent to have her handsome
boys disfigure themselves; so the only paint they wore was nature's red
in their cheeks, and heaven's blue in their eyes, as they stood by
grandma's throne, smiling like a pair of very mild and happy little
chiefs.

It really was a fine sight, I assure you, and grandma was quite
overcome by the spectacle.  So she was introduced to her gifts as
quickly as possible, to divert her mind from the tender thought that
all these fond and foolish adornments were to please her.

Every gift had a poem attached, and as the presents were of every
description, the verses possessed an agreeable variety.  Here are a few
as a sample.  A small tea-kettle was one gift, and this pleasing verse
seemed to be bubbling out of its spout:--

  "A little kettle, fat and fair,
    To sit on grandma's stove,
  To simmer softly, and to sing
    A song of Freddie's love."


Another was this brief warning tucked into a match-box:--

  "On this you scratch
  Your little match.
  When the spark flies
  Look out for your eyes!
  When the lucifer goes
  Look out for your nose!
  Little Jack gives you this
  With a birthday kiss."


A third was rather sentimental, from Mrs. Coobiddy:--

      "Within doth lie
      A silken tie,
  Your dress to deck;
      Soft and warm
      As daughter's arm
  Round mother's neck."


Mr. Pib presented a mouse-trap all set; and in order to explain his
poem, I must relate an incident in his varied career.

Pib had long been one of the family, and was much respected and beloved
by them all.  In fact, he was so petted and stuffed that he grew as fat
and big as a small dog, and so clumsy that he could no longer catch the
mice who dodged about among the dishes in the kitchen closets.

In vain had Mrs. Trot shut him up there; in vain had Aunt Trib told him
it was his duty to clear the cupboards of such small deer.  Poor fat
Pib only bounced about, broke the china, rattled down the pans, to come
out with empty paws, while the saucy mice squeaked scornfully, and
pranced about under his very nose.

One day Trib saw Pib catch a squirrel, and having eaten it he brought
the tail to her as a trophy of his skill.  This displeased his
mistress, and she gave him away, after a good scolding for killing
squirrels and letting mice, his lawful prey, go free.

Pib was so depressed that he went into the bag without a mew or a
scratch, and was borne away to his new home in another part of the town.

But he had no intention of staying; and after a day under the sofa,
passed in deep thought, and without food or drink, he made up his mind
to go home.  Slipping out, he travelled all night, and appeared next
morning, joyfully waving his tail, and purring like a small organ.

Aunt Trib was glad to see him, and when he had explained that he really
did do his best about the mice, she forgave him, and got the trap for
him to give grandma, that she might no longer be annoyed by having her
private stores nibbled at.

  "Dear madam, with respect
    My offering I bring;
  The hooks all baited well,
    And ready for a spring.
  No more the cunning mice
    Your biscuits shall abuse,
  Nor put their babes to sleep
    Within your fur-lined shoes.
  The trap my work must do;
    Forgive your portly cat,
  For he, like you, has grown
    For lively work too fat.
  All larger, fiercer game
    I gallantly defy,
  And squirrel, rat and mole
    Beneath my paw shall die.
  So, with this solemn vow,
    T. Pib his gift presents,
  And sprawling at your feet
    Purrs forth his compliments."

Which he actually did, and then sat bolt upright on the rug, surveying
the scene with the dignity of a judge and the gravity of an owl.

Such funny presents!  A wood-box and a water-carrier; a blue and gold
gruel-bowl, and a black silk apron; a new diary, and a pound of
remarkably choice tea; a pretty letter on birch bark, sealed with a
tiny red leaf; and a bust of the wisest man in America, were some of
them.

How the dear old lady did enjoy it all, and how grateful she was for
the smallest trifle!  An old friend sent her a lock of her mother's
hair, and the sight of the little brown curl made her forget how white
her own was, as she went back to the time when she last kissed that
tender little mother fifty years ago.

Fearing that tears would follow the smiles too soon, Aunt Trib
announced that the famous Indian chiefs, Chingchangpopocattepattle and
Pockeyhockeyclutteryar, would now give a war-dance and other striking
performances to represent Indian customs.

Then all sat round, and the warriors leaped into the middle of the room
with a war-whoop that caused Mr. Pib to leave precipitately.  It was a
most exciting spectacle; for after the dance came a fight, and one
chief tomahawked, scalped, and buried the other in the space of two
minutes.

But the ladies mourned so for the blond little Pockeyhockeyclutteryar
that he had to come alive and join in a hunting expedition, during
which they shot all the chairs for buffaloes and deer, and came home to
roast a sofa pillow over their fire, and feast thereupon with the
relish of hungry hunters.

These exploits were brought to an end by the arrival of more friends,
with more gifts, and the introduction of the birthday cake.  This was
cut by the queen of the _fête_, and the panting chiefs handed it round
with much scuffling of big moccasins and tripping over disarranged
blankets.

Then all filled their glasses with water, and drank the toast,
"Grandma, God bless her!"  After which the entire company took hands
and danced about the big chair, singing in chorus:--

  "Long may she wave, and may we all
    Her dear face live to see,
  As bright and well at seventy-four
    As now at seventy-three."


The clock struck ten, and every one went home, leaving the family to
end the day as they began it, round grandma's bed, with good-night
kisses and the sound of her last words in their ears:--

"It has been a beautiful and happy day, my dears, and if I never see
another you may always remember that I thought this one my best and
brightest birthday."



Cambridge: Press of John Wilson & Son.





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