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Title: Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag, Volume 3 - Cupid and Chow-chow, 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.

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[Frontispiece: NELLY'S HOSPITAL.--PAGE 54]



  AUNT JO's SCRAP-BAG.

  Volume III.

  CUPID AND CHOW-CHOW, ETC.


[Illustration: Scrap Bag Vol. III]


  BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT,

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



  BOSTON:
  ROBERTS BROTHERS.
  1896



  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by

  LOUISA M. ALCOTT

  In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.



  UNIVERSITY PRESS : JOHN WILSON & SON,
  CAMBRIDGE.



  CONTENTS.

  I. Cupid and Chow-Chow
  II. Huckleberry
  III. Nelly's Hospital
  IV. Grandma's Team
  V. Fairy Pinafores
  VI. Mamma's Plot
  VII. Kate's Choice
  VIII. The Moss People
  IX. What Fanny Heard
  X. A Marine Merry-making



AUNT JO'S SCRAP-BAG.



I.

CUPID AND CHOW-CHOW.

(_With Illustrations by Addie Ledyard_)

Mamma began it by calling her rosy, dimpled, year-old baby Cupid, and
as he grew up the name became more and more appropriate, for the pretty
boy loved every one, every one loved him, and he made those about him
fond of one another, like a regular little god of love.

[Illustration: Cupid.]

Especially beautiful and attractive did he look as he pranced on the
door-steps one afternoon while waiting the arrival of a little cousin.
Our Cupid's costume was modernized out of regard to the prejudices of
society, and instead of wings, bandage, bow and arrow, he was gorgeous
to behold in small buckled shoes, purple silk hose, black velvet
knickerbockers, and jacket with a lace collar, which, with his yellow
hair cut straight across the forehead, and falling in long, curling
love-locks behind, made him look like an old picture of a young
cavalier.

It was impossible for the little sprig to help being a trifle vain when
every one praised his comeliness, and every mirror showed him a rosy
face, with big blue eyes, smiling lips, white teeth, a cunning nose,
and a dimple in the chin, not to mention the golden mane that hung
about his neck.

Yes, Cupid was vain; and as he waited, he pranced, arranged the dear
buckled shoes in the first position, practised his best bow, felt of
his dimple, and smiled affably as he pictured to himself the pleasure
and surprise of the little cousin when he embraced her in the ardent
yet gentle way which made his greetings particularly agreeable to those
who liked such tender demonstrations.

Cupid had made up his mind to love Chow-chow very much, both because
she was his cousin, and because she must be interesting if all papa's
stories of her were true.  Her very name was pleasing to him, for it
suggested Indian sweetmeats, though papa said it was given to her
because she was such a mixture of sweet and sour that one never knew
whether he would get his tongue bitten by a hot bit of ginger, or find
a candied plum melting in his mouth when he tried that little jar of
Chow-chow.

"I know I shall like her, and of course she will like me lots, 'cause
everybody does," thought Cupid, settling his love-locks and surveying
his purple legs like a contented young peacock.

Just then a carriage drove up the avenue, stopped at the foot of the
steps, and out skipped a tall, brown man, a small, pale lady, and a
child, who whisked away to the pond so rapidly that no one could see
what she was like.

A great kissing and hand-shaking went on between the papas and mammas,
and Cupid came in for a large share, but did not enjoy it as much as
usual, for the little girl had fled and he _must_ get at her.  So the
instant Aunt Susan let him go he ran after the truant, quite panting
with eagerness and all aglow with amiable intentions, for he was a
hospitable little soul, and loved to do the honors of his pleasant home
like a gentleman.

A little figure, dressed in a brown linen frock, with dusty boots below
it, and above it a head of wild black hair, tied up with a large
scarlet bow, stood by the pond throwing stones at the swans, who
ruffled their feathers in stately anger at such treatment.  Suddenly a
pair of velvet arms embraced her, and half turning she looked up into a
rosy, smiling face, with two red lips suggestively puckered for a
hearty kiss.

Chow-chow's black eyes sparkled, and her little brown face flushed as
red as her ribbon as she tried to push the boy away with a shrill
scream.

"Don't be frightened.  I'm Cupid.  I must kiss you.  I truly must.  I
always do when people come, and I like you very much."

[Illustration: "Don't be frightened.  I'm Cupid.  I must kiss you.  I
truly must."]

With this soothing remark, the velvet arms pressed her firmly, and the
lips gave her several soft kisses, which, owing to her struggles, lit
upon her nose, chin, top-knot, and ear; for, having begun, Cupid did
not know when to leave off.

But Chow-chow's wrath was great, her vengeance swift, and getting one
hand free she flung the gravel it held full in the flushed and smiling
face of this bold boy who had dared to kiss her without leave.

Poor Cupid fell back blinded and heart-broken at such a return for his
warm welcome, and while he stood trying to clear his smarting eyes, a
fierce little voice said close by,--

"Does it hurt?"

"Oh! dreadfully!"

"I'm glad of it."

"Then you don't love me?"

"I hate you!"

"I don't see why."

"I don't like to be hugged and kissed.  I don't let anybody but papa
and mamma do it, ever,--so, now!"

"But I'm your cousin, and you _must_ love me.  Won't you, please?"
besought Cupid, with one eye open and a great tear on his nose.

"I'll see about it.  I don't like crying boys," returned the
hard-hearted damsel.

"Well, you made me; but I forgive you," and Cupid magnanimously put out
his hand for a friendly shake.  But Chow-chow was off like a startled
deer, and vanished into the house, singing at the top of her voice a
nursery rhyme to this effect,--

  "And she bids you to come in,
  With a dimple in your chin,
  Billy boy, Billy boy."


When Cupid, with red eyes and a sad countenance, made his appearance,
he found Chow-chow on her father's knee eating cake, while the elders
talked.  She had told the story, and now from the safe stronghold of
papa's arm condescended to smile upon the conquered youth.

Cupid went to mamma, and in one long whisper told his woes; then sat
upon the cushion at her feet, and soon forgot them all in the mingled
joys of eating macaroons and giving Chow-chow smile for smile across
the hearth-rug.

"I predict that we shall be much amused and edified by the progress of
the friendship just begun," said Cupid's papa, a quiet man, who loved
children and observed them with affectionate interest.

"And I predict a hard time of it for your young man, if he attempts to
tame my strong-minded little woman here.  Her mother's ideas are
peculiar, and she wants to bring Chow-chow up according to the new
lights,--with contempt for dress and all frivolous pursuits; to make
her hardy, independent, and quite above caring for such trifles as
love, domestic life, or the feminine accomplishments we used to find so
charming."

As Chow-chow's papa spoke, he looked from the child in her ugly gray
frock, thick boots, and mop of hair tied up in a style neither pretty
nor becoming, to his wife in _her_ plain dress, with _her_ knob of
hair, decided mouth, sarcastic nose, and restless eyes that seemed
always on the watch to find some new wrong and protest against it.

"Now, George, how can you misrepresent my views and principles so?  But
it's no use trying to convince or out-talk you.  We never get a chance,
and our only hope is to bring up our girls so that they may not be put
down as we are," returned Mrs. Susan, with a decided air.

"Show us how you are going to defend your sex and conquer ours,
Chow-chow; give us your views generally.  Now, then, who is in favor of
the Elective Franchise?" said Uncle George, with a twinkle of the eye.

Up went Aunt Susan's hand, and to the great amusement of all up went
Chow-chow's also and, scrambling to her feet on papa's knee, she burst
into a harangue which convulsed her hearers, for in it the child's
voice made queer work with the long words, and the red bow wagged
belligerently as she laid down the law with energy, and defined her
views, closing with a stamp of her foot.

"This is our platform: Free speech, free love, free soil, free every
thing; and Woman's Puckerage for ever!"

Even Aunt Susan had to laugh at that burst, for it was delivered with
such vigor that the speaker would have fallen on her nose if she had
not been sustained by a strong arm.

Cupid laughed because the rest did, and then turned his big eyes full
of wonder on his mother, asking what it all meant.

"Only fun, my dear."

"Now, Ellen, that's very wrong.  Why don't you explain this great
subject to him, and prepare him to take a nobler part in the coming
struggle than those who have gone before him have done?" said Mrs.
Susan, with a stern look at her husband, who was petting the little
daughter, who evidently loved him best.

"I don't care to disturb his happy childhood with quarrels beyond his
comprehension.  I shall teach him to be as good and just a man as his
father, and feel quite sure that no woman will suffer wrong at his
hands," returned Mrs. Ellen, smiling at Cupid's papa, who nodded back
as if they quite understood each other.

"We never did agree and we never shall, so I will say no more; but we
shall see what a good effect my girl's strength of character will have
upon your boy, who has been petted and spoiled by too much tenderness."

So Aunt Susan settled the matter; and as the days went on, the elder
people fell into the way of observing how the little pair got on
together, and were much amused by the vicissitudes of that nursery
romance.

In the beginning Chow-chow rode over Cupid rough-shod, quite trampled
upon him in fact; and he bore it, because he wanted her to like him,
and had been taught that the utmost courtesy was due a guest.  But when
he got no reward for his long-suffering patience he was sometimes
tempted to rebel, and probably would have done so if he had not had
mamma to comfort and sustain him.  Chow-chow was very quick at spying
out the weaknesses of her friends and alarmingly frank in proclaiming
her discoveries; so poor Cupid's little faults were seen and proclaimed
very soon, and life made a burden to him, until he found out the best
way of silencing his tormentor was by mending the faults.

"My papa says you are a dandy-prat, and you are," said Chow-chow, one
day when the desire to improve her race was very strong upon her.

"What is a dandy-prat?" asked Cupid, looking troubled at the new
accusation.

"I asked him, and he said a vain fellow; and you are vain,--so now!"

"Am I?" and Cupid stopped to think it over.

"Yes; you're horrid vain of your hair, and your velvet clothes, and the
dimple in your chin.  I know it, 'cause you always look in the glass
when you are dressed up, and keep feeling of that ugly hole in your
chin, and I see you brush your hair ever so much."

Poor Cupid colored up with shame, and turned his back to the mirror, as
the sharp-tongued young monitor went on:--

"My mamma said if you were her boy she'd cut off your curls, put you in
a plain suit, and stick some court-plaster over that place till you
forgot all about it."

Chow-chow expected an explosion of grief of anger after that last slap;
but to her amazement the boy walked out of the room without a word.
Going up to his mother as she sat busy with a letter, he asked in a
very earnest voice,--

"Mamma, am I vain?"

"I'm afraid you are a little, my dear," answered mamma, deep in her
letter.

With a sad but resolute face Cupid went back to Chow-chow, bearing a
pair of shears in one hand and a bit of court-plaster in the other.

"You may cut my hair off, if you want to.  I ain't going to be a
dandy-prat any more," he said, offering the fatal shears with the
calmness of a hero.

Chow-chow was much surprised, but charmed with the idea of shearing
this meek sheep, so she snipped and slashed until the golden locks lay
shining on the floor, and Cupid's head looked as if rats had been
gnawing his hair.

"Do you like me better now?" he asked, looking in her eyes as his only
mirror, and seeing there the most approving glance they had ever
vouchsafed him.

"Yes, I do; girl-boys are hateful."

He might have retorted, "So are boy-girls," but he was a gentleman, so
he only smiled and held up his chin for her to cover the offending
dimple, which she did with half a square of black plaster.

"I shall never wear my velvet clothes any more unless mamma makes me,
and I don't think she will when I tell her about it, 'cause she likes
to have me cure my faults," said Cupid when the sacrifice was complete,
and even stern Chow-chow was touched by the sweetness with which he
bore the rebuke, the courage with which he began the atonement for his
little folly.

When he appeared at dinner, great was the outcry; and when the story
was told, great was the effect produced.  Aunt Susan said with
satisfaction,--

"You see what an excellent effect my girl's Spartan training has on
her, and how fine her influence is on your effeminate boy."

Uncle George laughed heartily, but whispered something to Chow-chow
that made her look ashamed and cast repentant glances at her victim.
Cupid's papa shook hands with the boy, and said, smiling, "I am rather
proud of my 'dandy-prat,' after all."

But mamma grieved for the lost glory of her little Absalom, and found
it hard to pardon naughty Chow-chow, until Cupid looked up at her with
a grave, clear look which even the big patch could not spoil, and said
manfully,--

"You know I _was_ vain, mamma, but I won't be any more, and you'll be
glad, because you love me better than my hair, don't you?"

Then she hugged the cropped head close, and kissed the hidden dimple
without a word of reproach; but she laid the yellow locks away as if
she _did_ love them after all, and often followed the little lad in the
rough gray suit, as if his sacrifice had only made him more beautiful
in her eyes.

Chow-chow was quite affable for some days after this prank, and treated
her slave with more gentleness, evidently feeling that, though
belonging to an inferior race, he deserved a trifle of regard for his
obedience to her teachings.  But her love of power grew by what it fed
on and soon brought fresh woe to faithful Cupid, who adored her, though
she frowned upon his little passion and gave him no hope.

"You are a 'fraid-cat," asserted her majesty, one afternoon as they
played in the stable, and Cupid declined to be kicked by the horse
Chow-chow was teasing.

"No, I ain't; but I don't like to be hurt, and it's wrong to fret
Charley, and I won't poke him with my hoe."

"Well, it isn't wrong to turn this thing, but you don't dare to put
your finger on that wheel and let me pinch it a little bit," added
Chow-chow, pointing to some sort of hay-cutting machine that stood near
by.

"What for?" asked Cupid, who did object to being hurt in any way.

"To show you ain't a 'fraid-cat.  I know you are.  I'm not, see there,"
and Chow-chow gave her own finger a very gentle squeeze.

"I can bear it harder than that," and devoted Cupid laid his plump
forefinger between two wheels, bent on proving his courage at all costs.

Chow-chow gave a brisk turn to the handle, slipped in doing so, and
brought the whole weight of the cruel cogs on the tender little finger,
crushing the top quite flat.  Blood flowed, Chow-chow stopped aghast;
and Cupid, with one cry of pain, caught and reversed the handle, drew
out the poor finger, walked unsteadily in to mamma, saying, with dizzy
eyes and white lips, "She didn't mean to do it," and then fainted quite
away in a little heap at her feet.

The doctor came flying, shook his head over the wound, and drew out a
case of dreadful instruments that made even strong-minded Aunt Susan
turn away her head, and bound up the little hand that might never be
whole and strong again.  Chow-chow stood by quite white and still until
it was all over and Cupid asleep in his mother's arms; then she dived
under the sofa and sobbed there, refusing to be comforted until her
father came home.  What that misguided man said to her no one ever
knew, but when Cupid was propped up on the couch at tea-time, Chow-chow
begged piteously to be allowed to feed him.

The wounded hero, with his arm in a sling, permitted her to minister to
him; and she did it so gently, so patiently, that her father said low
to Mrs. Ellen,--

"I have hopes of her yet, for all the woman is not taken out of her, in
spite of the new lights."

When they parted for the evening, Cupid, who had often sued for a
good-night kiss and sued in vain, was charmed to see the red top-knot
bending over him, and to hear Chow-chow whisper, with a penitent kiss,
"I truly didn't mean to, Coopy."

[Illustration: "The wounded hero, with his arm in a sling, permitted
her to minister to him."]

The well arm held her fast as the martyr whispered back, "Just say I
ain't a 'fraid-cat, and I don't mind smashing my finger."

Chow-chow said it that night and thought it next day and for many
following days, for each morning, when the doctor came to dress the
"smashed" finger, she insisted on being by as a sort of penance.  She
forced herself to watch the bright instruments without shivering, she
ran for warm water, she begged to spread the salve on the bandage, to
hold the smelling-bottle, and to pick all the lint that was used.

And while she performed these small labors of love, she learned a
little lesson that did her more good than many of mamma's lectures.
For Cupid showed her the difference between the rash daring that runs
foolish risks, and the steady courage that bears pain without
complaint.  Every day the same scene took place; Chow-chow would watch
for and announce the doctor; would bustle out the salve-box, bandage,
and basin, set the chair, and call Cupid from his book with a new
gentleness in her voice.

The boy would answer at once, take his place, and submit the poor
swollen hand to the ten minutes' torture of little probes and scissors,
caustic and bathing, without a word, a tear, or sound of suffering.  He
only turned his head away, grew white about the lips, damp on the
forehead, and when it was all over would lean against his mother for a
minute, faint and still.

Then Chow-chow would press her hands together with a sigh of mingled
pity, admiration, and remorse, and when the boy looked up to say
stoutly, "It didn't hurt very much," she would put his sling on for
him, and run before to settle the pillows, carry him the little glass
of wine and water he was to take, and hover round him until he was
quite himself again, when she would subside close by, and pick lint or
hem sails while he read aloud to her from one of his dear books.

"It is a good lesson in surgery and nursing for her.  I intend to have
her study medicine if she shows any fondness for it," said Aunt Susan.

"It is a good lesson in true courage, and I am glad to have her learn
it early," added Uncle George, who now called Cupid a "trump" instead
of a "dandy-prat."

"It is a good lesson in loving and serving others for love's sake, as
all women must learn to do soon or late," said gentle Mrs. Ellen.

"It is teaching them both how to bear and forbear, to teach and help,
and comfort one another, and take the pains and pleasures of life as
they should do together," concluded Cupid's papa, watching the little
couple with the wise kind eyes that saw a pretty story in their daily
lives.

Slowly the finger healed, and to every one's surprise was not much
disfigured, which Cupid insisted was entirely owing to Chow-chow's
superior skill in spreading salve and picking lint.  Before this time,
however, Chow-chow, touched by his brave patience, his generous refusal
to blame her for the mishap, and his faithful affection, had in a
tender moment confessed to her little lover that she did "like him a
great deal," and consented to go and live in the old swan-house on the
island in the pond as soon as he was well enough.

But no sooner had she enraptured him by these promises than she dashed
his joy by adding certain worldly conditions which she had heard
discussed by her mamma and her friends.

"But we can't be married until we have a lot of money.  Nobody does,
and we _must_ have ever so much to buy things with."

"Yes, but papa said he'd give us some little furniture to put in our
house, and mamma will let us have as much cake and milk-tea as we want,
and I shall be very fond of you, and what's the use of money?" asked
the enamoured Cupid, who believed in love in a cottage, or swan-house
rather.

"I shan't marry a poor boy, so now!" was the mercenary Chow-chow's
decision.

"Well, I'll see how much I've got; but I should think you would like me
just as well without," and Cupid went away to inspect his property with
as much anxiety as any man preparing for matrimony.

But Cupid's finances were in a bad state, for he spent his pocket-money
as fast as he got it, and had lavished gifts upon his sweetheart with
princely prodigality.  So he punched a hole in his savings-bank and
counted his small hoard, much afflicted to find it only amounted to
seventy-eight cents, and a button put in for fun.  Bent on winning his
mistress no sacrifice seemed too great, so he sold his live stock,
consisting of one lame hen, a rabbit, and a choice collection of
caterpillars.  But though he drove sharp bargains, these sales only
brought him in a dollar or two.  Then he went about among his friends,
and begged and borrowed small sums, telling no one his secret lest they
should laugh at him, but pleading for a temporary accommodation so
earnestly and prettily that no one could refuse.

When he had strained every nerve and tried every wile, he counted up
his gains and found that he had four dollars and a half.  That seemed a
fortune to the innocent; and, getting it all in bright pennies, he
placed it in a new red purse, and with pardonable pride laid his
offering at Chow-chow's feet.

But alas for love's labor lost! the cruel fair crushed all his hopes by
saying coldly,--

"That isn't half enough.  We ought to have ten dollars, and I won't
like you until you get it."

"O Chow-chow!  I tried so hard; do play it's enough," pleaded poor
Cupid.

"No, I shan't.  I don't care much for the old swan-house now, and you
ain't half so pretty as you used to be."

"You made me cut my hair off, and now you don't love me 'cause I'm
ugly," cried the afflicted little swain, indignant at such injustice.

But Chow-chow was in a naughty mood, so she swung on the gate, and
would not relent in spite of prayers and blandishments.

"I'll get some more money somehow, if you will wait.  Will you, please?"

"I'll see 'bout it."

And with that awful uncertainty weighing upon his soul, poor Cupid went
away to wrestle with circumstances.  Feeling that matters had now
reached a serious point, he confided his anxieties to mamma; and she,
finding that it was impossible to laugh or reason him out of his
untimely passion, comforted him by promising to buy at high prices all
the nosegays he could gather out of his own little garden.

"But it will take a long time to make ten dollars that way.  Don't you
think Chow-chow might come now, when it is all warm and pleasant, and
not stop until summer is gone, and no birds and flowers and nice things
to play with?  It's so hard to wait," sighed Cupid, holding his cropped
head in his hands, and looking the image of childish despair.

"So it is, and _I_ think Chow is a little goose not to go at once and
enjoy love's young dream without wasting precious time trying to make
money.  Tell her papa said so, and he ought to know," added Uncle
George, under his breath, for he _had_ tried it, and found that it did
not work well.

Cupid did tell her, but little madam had got the whim into her perverse
head; and the more she was urged to give in, the more decided she grew.
So Cupid accepted his fate like a man, and delved away in his garden,
watering his pinks, weeding his mignonette, and begging his roses to
bloom as fast and fair as they could, so that he might be happy before
the summer was gone.  Rather a pathetic little lover, mamma thought, as
she watched him tugging away with the lame hand, or saw him come
beaming in with his posies to receive the precious money that was to
buy a return for his loyal love.

Tender-hearted Mrs. Ellen tried to soften Chow-chow and teach her
sundry feminine arts against the time she went to housekeeping on the
island, for Mrs. Susan was so busy hearing lectures, reading reports,
and attending to the education of other people's children that her own
ran wild.  In her good moods, Chow-chow took kindly to the new lessons,
and began to hem a table-cloth for the domestic board at which she was
to preside; also swept and dusted now and then, and once cooked a
remarkable mess, which she called "Coopy's favorite pudding," and
intended to surprise him with it soon after the wedding.  But these
virtuous efforts soon flagged, the table-cloth was not finished, the
duster was converted into a fly-killer, and her dolls lay unheeded in
corners after a few attempts at dressing and nursing had ended in
_ennui_.

How long matters would have gone on in this unsatisfactory way no one
knows; but a rainy day came, and the experiences it gave the little
pair brought things to a crisis.

The morning was devoted to pasting pictures and playing horse all over
the house, with frequent pauses for refreshment and an occasional
squabble.  After dinner, as the mammas sat sewing and the papas talking
or reading in one room, the children played in the other, quite
unconscious that they were affording both amusement and instruction to
their elders.

"Let's play house," suggested Cupid, who was of a domestic turn, and
thought a little rehearsal would not be amiss.

"Well, I will," consented Chow-chow, who was rather subdued by the
violent exercises of the morning.

So a palatial mansion was made of chairs, the dolls' furniture
arranged, the stores laid in, and housekeeping begun.

[Illustration: "'Let's play house,' suggested Cupid, who was of a
domestic turn."]

"Now, you must go off to your business while I 'tend to my work," said
Chow-chow, after they had breakfasted off a seed-cake and sugar and
water tea in the bosom of their family.

Cupid obediently put on papa's hat, took a large book under his arm,
and went away to look at pictures behind the curtains, while Mrs. C.
bestirred herself at home in a most energetic manner, spanking her nine
dolls until their cries rent the air, rattling her dishes with perilous
activity, and going to market with the coal-hod for her purchases.

Mr. Cupid returned to dinner rather early, and was scolded for so
doing, but pacified his spouse by praising her dessert,--a sandwich of
sliced apple, bread, and salt, which he ate like a martyr.

A ride on the rocking-horse with his entire family about him filled the
soul of Mr. Cupid with joy, though the trip was rendered a little
fatiguing by his having to dismount frequently to pick up the various
darlings as they fell out of his pockets or their mother's arms as she
sat behind him on a pillion.

"Isn't this beautiful?" he asked, as they swung to and fro,--Mrs. Cupid
leaning her head on his shoulder, and dear little Claribel Maud peeping
out of his breast-pocket, while Walter Hornblower and Rosie Ruth, the
twins, sat up between the horse's ears, their china faces beaming in a
way to fill a father's heart with pride.

"It will be much nicer if the horse runs away and we all go smash.
I'll pull out his tail, then he'll rear, and we must tumble off,"
proposed the restless Mrs. C., whose dramatic soul delighted in tragic
adventures.

So the little papa's happy moment was speedily banished as he dutifully
precipitated himself and blooming family upon the floor, to be gathered
up and doctored with chalk and ink, and plasters of paper stuck all
over their faces.

When this excitement subsided, it was evening, and Mrs. Cupid bundled
her children off to bed, saying,--

"Now, you must go to your club, and I am going to my lecture."

"But I thought you'd sew now and let me read to you, and have our
little candles burn, and be all cosey, like papa and mamma," answered
Cupid, who already felt the discomfort of a strong-minded wife.

"My papa and mamma don't do so.  He always goes to the club, and smokes
and reads papers and plays chess, and mamma goes to Woman's Puckerage
meetings,--so I must."

"Let me go too; I never saw a Puckerage lecture, and I'd like to," said
Cupid, who felt that a walk arm-in-arm with his idol would make any
sort of meeting endurable.

"No, you can't!  Papa _never_ goes; he says they are all gabble and
nonsense, and mamma says his club is all smoke and slang, and they
_never_ go together."

So Chow-chow locked the door, and the little pair went their separate
ways; while the older pair in the other room laughed at the joke, yet
felt that Cupid's plan was the best, and wondered how Ellen and her
husband managed to get on so well.

Chow-chow's lecture did not seem to be very interesting, for she was
soon at home again.  But Mr. Cupid, after smoking a lamp-lighter with
his feet up, fell to reading a story that interested him, and forgot to
go home until he finished it.  Then, to his great surprise, he was told
that it was morning, that he had been out all night, and couldn't have
any breakfast.  This ruffled him, and he told madam she was a bad wife,
and he wouldn't love her if she did not instantly give him his share of
the little pie presented by cook, as a bribe to keep them out of the
kitchen.

Mrs. C. sternly refused, and locked up the pie, declaring that she
hated housekeeping and wouldn't live with him any more, which threat
she made good by quitting the house, vowing not to speak to him again
that day, but to play alone, free and happy.

The deserted husband sat down among his infants with despair in his
soul, while the spirited wife, in an immense bonnet, pranced about the
room, waving the key of the pie-closet and rejoicing in her freedom.
Yes, it was truly pathetic to see poor Mr. Cupid's efforts at
housekeeping and baby-tending; for, feeling that they had a double
claim upon him now, he tried to do his duty by his children.  But he
soon gave it up, piled them all into one bed, and covered them with a
black cloth, saying mournfully, "I'll play they all died of mumps, then
I can sell the house and go away.  I can't bear to stay here when _she_
is gone."

The house was sold, the dead infants buried under the sofa, and then
the forsaken man was a homeless wanderer.  He tried in many ways to
amuse himself.  He travelled to China on the tailless horse, went to
California in a balloon, and sailed around the world on a raft made of
two chairs and the hearth-brush.  But these wanderings always ended
near the ruins of his home, and he always sat down for a moment to
watch the erratic movements of his wife.

That sprightly lady fared better than he, for her inventive fancy kept
her supplied with interesting plays, though a secret sense of remorse
for her naughtiness weighed upon her spirits at times.  She had a
concert, and sang surprising medleys, with drum accompaniments.  She
rode five horses in a circus, and jumped over chairs and foot-stools in
the most approved manner.  She had a fair, a fire, and a shipwreck;
hunted lions, fished for crocodiles, and played be a monkey in a style
that would have charmed Darwin.

But somehow none of these festive games had their usual relish.  There
was no ardent admirer to applaud her music, no two-legged horse to help
her circus with wild prancings and life-like neighs, no devoted friend
and defender to save her from the perils of flood and fire, no comrade
to hunt with her, no fellow-monkey to skip from perch to perch with
social jabberings, as they cracked their cocoa-nuts among imaginary
palms.  All was dull and tiresome.

A strong sense of loneliness fell upon her, and for the first time she
appreciated her faithful little friend.  Then the pie weighed upon her
conscience; there it was, wasting its sweetness in the closet, and no
one ate it.  She had not the face to devour it alone; she could not
make up her mind to give it to Cupid; and after her fierce renunciation
of him, how could she ask him to forgive her?  Gradually her spirits
declined, and about the time that the other wanderer got back from his
last trip she sat down to consider her position.

Hearing no noise in the other room, Uncle George peeped in and saw the
divided pair sitting in opposite corners, looking askance at each
other, evidently feeling that a wide gulf lay between them, and longing
to cross it, yet not quite knowing how.  A solemn and yet a comical
sight, so Uncle George beckoned the others to come and look.

"My boy will give in first.  See how beseechingly he looks at the
little witch!" whispered Mrs. Ellen, laughing softly.

"No, he won't; she hurt his feelings very much by leaving him, and he
won't relent until she goes back; then he'll forgive and forget like a
man," said Cupid's papa.

"I hope my girl will remain true to her principles," began Aunt Susan.

"She'll be a miserable baby if she does," muttered Uncle George.

"I was going on to say that, finding she has done wrong, I hope she
will have the courage to say so, hard as it is, and so expiate her
fault and try to do better," added Aunt Susan, fast and low, with a
soft look in her eyes, as she watched the little girl sitting alone,
while so much honest affection was waiting for her close by, if pride
would let her take it.

Somehow Uncle George's arm went round her waist when she said that, and
he gave a quick nod, as if something pleased him very much.

"Shall I speak, and help the dears bridge over their little trouble?"
asked Mrs. Ellen, pretending not to see the older children making up
their differences behind her.

"No; let them work it out for themselves.  I'm curious to see how they
will manage," said papa, hoping that his boy's first little love would
prosper in spite of thorns among the roses.

So they waited, and presently the affair was settled in a way no one
expected.  As if she could not bear the silence any longer, Chow-chow
suddenly bustled up, saying to herself,--

"I haven't played lecture.  I always like that, and here's a nice
place."

Pulling out the drawers of a secretary like steps, she slowly mounted
to the wide ledge atop, and began the droll preachment her father had
taught her in ridicule of mamma's hobby.

"Do stop her, George; it's so absurd," whispered Mrs. Susan.

"Glad you think so, my dear," laughed Uncle George.

"There is some sense in it, and I have no doubt the real and true will
come to pass when we women learn how far to go, and how to fit
ourselves for the new duties by doing the old ones well," said Mrs.
Ellen, who found good in all things, and kept herself so womanly sweet
and strong that no one could deny her any right she chose to claim.

"She is like so many of those who mount your hobby, Susan, and ride
away into confusions of all sorts, leaving empty homes behind them.
The happy, womanly women will have the most influence after all, and do
the most to help the bitter, sour, discontented ones.  They need help,
God knows, and I shall be glad to lend a hand toward giving them their
rights in all things."

As papa spoke, Chow-chow, who had caught sight of the peeping faces,
and was excited thereby, burst into a tremendous harangue, waving her
hands, stamping her feet, and dancing about on her perch as if her
wrongs had upset her wits.  All of a sudden the whole secretary lurched
forward, out fell the drawers, open flew the doors, down went Chow-chow
with a screech, and the marble slab came sliding after, as if to
silence the irrepressible little orator forever.  How he did it no one
knew, but before the top fell Cupid was under it, received it on his
shoulders, and held it up with all his might, while Chow-chow scrambled
out from the ruins with no hurt but a bump on the forehead.  Papa had
his boy out in a twinkling, and both mammas fell upon their rescued
darlings with equal alarm and tenderness; for Susan got her little girl
in her arms before Mr. George could reach her, and Chow-chow clung
there, sobbing away her fright and pain as if the maternal purring was
a new and pleasant solace.

"I'll never play that nasty old puckerage any more," she declared,
feeling of the purple lump on her brow.

"Nor I either, in that way," whispered her mamma, with a look that made
Chow-chow ask curiously,--

"Why, did you hurt yourself too?"

"I am afraid I did."

"Be sure that your platform is all right before you try again, Poppet,
else it will let you down when you least expect it, and damage your
best friends as well as yourself," said Mr. George, setting up the
fallen rostrum.

"I'm not going to have any flatporm; I'm going to be good and play with
Coopy, if he'll let me," added the penitent Chow-chow, glancing with
shy, wet eyes at Cupid, who stood near with a torn jacket and a bruise
on the already wounded hand.

His only answer was to draw her out of her mother's arms, embrace her
warmly, and seat her beside him on the little bench he loved to share
with her.  This ready and eloquent forgiveness touched Chow-chow's
heart, and the lofty top-knot went down upon Cupid's shoulder as if the
little fortress lowered its colors in token of entire surrender.
Cupid's only sign of triumph was a gentle pat on the wild, black head,
and a nod towards the spectators, as he said, smiling all over his
chubby face,--

"Every thing is nice and happy now, and we don't mind the bumps."

"Let us sheer off, we are only in the way," said Mr. George, and the
elders retired, but found it impossible to resist occasional peeps at
the little pair, as the reconciliation scene went on.

"O Coopy!  I _was_ so bad, I don't think you can love me any more,"
began the repentant one with a sob.

"Oh yes I can; and just as soon as I get money enough, we'll go and
live in the swan-house, won't we?" returned the faithful lover, making
the most of this melting mood.

"I'll go right away to-morrow, I don't care about the money.  I like
the nice bright pennies, and we don't need much, and I've got my new
saucepan to begin with," cried Chow-chow in a burst of generosity, for,
like a true woman, though she demanded impossibilities at first, yet
when her heart was won she asked nothing but love, and was content with
a saucepan.

"O Goody! and I've got my drum," returned the enraptured Cupid, as
ready as the immortal Traddles to go to housekeeping with a toasting
fork and a bird-cage, or some such useful trifles.

"But I _was_ bad about the pie," cried Chow-chow as her sins kept
rising before her; and, burning to make atonement for this one, she ran
to the closet, tore out the pie, and, thrusting it into Cupid's hands,
said in a tone of heroic resolution, "There, you eat it _all_, and I
won't taste a bit."

"No, _you_ eat it all, I'd like to see you.  I don't care for it,
truly, 'cause I love you more than a million pies," protested Cupid,
offering back the treasure in a somewhat ruinous state after its
various vicissitudes.

"Then give me a tiny bit, and you have the rest," said Chow-chow, bent
on self-chastisement.

"The fairest way is to cut it 'zactly in halves, and each have a piece.
Mamma says that's the right thing to do always."  And Cupid, producing
a jack-knife, proceeded to settle the matter with masculine justice.

[Illustration: "NOW LET'S KISS AND BE FRIENDS."]

So side by side they devoured the little bone of contention, chattering
amicably about their plans; and as the last crumb vanished, Cupid said
persuasively, as if the league was not quite perfect without that
childish ceremony,--

"Now let's kiss and be friends, and never quarrel any more."

As the rosy mouths met in a kiss of peace, the sound was echoed from
the other room, for Mr. George's eyes made the same proposal, and his
wife answered it as tenderly as Chow-chow did Cupid.  Not a word was
said, for grown people do not "'fess" and forgive with the sweet
frankness of children; but both felt that the future would be happier
than the past, thanks to the lesson they had learned from the little
romance of Cupid and Chow-chow.



II.

HUCKLEBERRY.

Coming home late one night, my eye was caught by the sight of a spotted
dog sitting under a lamp all alone, and, as I passed, I said to him,--

"Go home, little doggie!  It is too late for you to be out, and you'll
get rheumatism if you stay there."

Alas for the poor fellow! he had no home to go to; and, evidently
feeling that I had invited him to share mine by a friendly remark, he
came pattering after us down the street, and when we reached our door
stood wagging his tail, as if to say,--

"Thank you; yes, I _should_ be most grateful if you'd allow me to lie
on your door-mat till morning."

His handsome, wistful eyes, and the insinuating wag of his thin tail,
expressed this as plainly as any words could have done, and it grieved
me much to see that I had awakened hopes which I could not fulfil.

I explained to him how it was; that this was not my house, and I really
could not take him into my room; that there were five cats downstairs,
and several old ladies upstairs; one snarly, fat poodle on the first
floor; and half-a-dozen young men about the house, ready for mischief
at all hours of the day or night.  Such being the case, it was
evidently no home for a strange doggie, so like a huckleberry pudding
in appearance that I named him Huckleberry on the spot.

He seemed to understand it, for he stopped wagging and retired from the
steps; but he was bitterly disappointed; and when I had gently closed
the door, apologizing as I did so, he gave one disconsolate howl, and
went to sit under the lamp again, as if that little circle of light
made the dull November night less cold and lonely.

A day or two afterward, as I stood looking at the ruins of the great
fire, a spotted dog lying on the edge of a smoking cellar attracted my
attention.

"Faithful fellow! he is still watching his master's property, I dare
say, though every thing is ashes.  How beautiful that is!" I thought to
myself, and went a little nearer to enjoy the touching spectacle.

As I approached, doggie looked up, and I knew him at once by the queer
black patch on his left eye, and he knew me, for he sat up and began to
beat the ground with his tail by way of welcome.

"Why, Huckleberry, is it you?  Was your master burned out? and don't
you know where he is gone?" I asked.

Now, I am very stupid about learning languages, and nearly died of
German; but the language of animals I understand without any grammar or
dictionary; and I defy any one to read it better than myself.  So, when
Huckleberry gave a bark, I knew it meant, "Yes, ma'am;" and when he
came fawning about my very muddy boots, he added this touching remark
as plainly as if he had said it in the most elegant English:--

"Dear woman, I'm homeless, friendless, and forlorn; pity me, and I will
be a faithful servant to you, on the word of an honest, grateful dog!"

It was very hard to say no, but I tried to soften my refusal by
offering him some nice little cakes which I was intending to give my
boys that evening; for when they come home from college Saturday night,
we always have a jubilee in honor of the class of '76, to which I
belong.

Doggie evidently needed them more than the lads, and gobbled up the
whole dozen with a rapidity that made me wish I had a beefsteak or two
in my pocket.  While he was finishing the last one, I slipped away, and
devoutly hoped I should see the poor, dear thing no more, for it rent
my heart to leave him out in the cold; yet what could I do with him in
my one room?

A week or two passed, and I forgot my spotted friend in the absorbing
task of getting Christmas presents ready.  Every one else seemed to
have forgotten him, too; for, late one snowy afternoon, as I hurried
home, quite worn out with trying to shop among a mob of other women as
busy and as impatient as myself, I saw a sight that made the tears come
to my eyes in spite of the snow-flakes roosting on my lashes.

On the upper step of a church, close to the door, is if waiting for it
to open to him, lay poor Huckleberry, dirty, thin, and evidently worn
out with the hardships of his lot.  Tired of asking for admittance at
men's doors, he had gone to God's house, and no one had turned him
away.  If he had lain there all that stormy night, I think by morning
he would have been safe in the little lower heaven which I am sure
awaits the faithful, brave, and good among animals, when their long and
often unacknowledged service is over in this world.

That mute reproach went to my heart, for now it seemed as if this small
charity had been sent to me especially, and that I had neglected it
till it was nearly too late.  Huckleberry seemed to feel as if it was
no use to appeal to human kindness any more, for he made no sign of
recognition, and lay quite still, as if waiting till his dumb prayer
for help was heard and answered by Him who sees the sparrow's fall.

Up the steps I went, and, putting down my parcels, patted the head that
seemed almost too tired to be lifted up, and with remorseful tenderness
I said,--

"My poor dear, come home with me.  I truly mean it now.  Forgive me,
and let me show you that in charitable Boston not even a dog need
starve!"

He didn't believe me.  He was tired of false hopes, worn out with
following people home to find the doors shut in his face, and seemed to
have made up his mind to stay in the only refuge left him.

I wondered as I watched him if he had ever seen that door open, and,
remembering the light, the warmth, the music, and the quiet figures
moving in and out, had thought it was a better world, and so, when
every other hope failed, came back to wait for a chance to creep in and
lie humbly in some corner, feeling safe and happy.

I shall never know, for I had not time to ask about it, and he was too
tired to talk.  Feeling that my duty was very plainly to give poor
doggie a lift, I coaxed him home with great difficulty, and he slowly
followed, looking so incredulous and amazed that I felt bound to redeem
the character of the human race in his eyes.

Once in my room, with a plate of cold meat before him and a warm rug
placed at his disposal, Huckleberry gave in, believed, rejoiced, and
was so grateful that he stopped now and then, even when bolting lumps
of cold steak, to look at me and wag his tail with a whine of thanks.

Dear thing! how dirty, lean, and ugly he was! with one lame foot, a
torn ear, and a bit of old rope round his neck where the collar should
have been.  Never mind; I loved him, and went on petting him with a
reckless disregard of consequences and fleas.  I had no more idea what
I should do with him than if he had been an elephant; but remembering
the blessed society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, I felt
that I could fall back on them when all other hopes failed.

So, while Huckleberry lay on the rug, roasting first one side and then
the other, with his nose on a bone, just to make him feel sure it
wasn't all a dream, I sat staring at him and planning a future for him
such as few dogs enjoy.  He seemed to feel this, for he gurgled and
grunted in his sleep, woke up now and then with a start, and stared
back at me with eyes full of doggish loyalty as he whacked the floor
with his grateful tail.

"One of our fellows shall take him!" I decided; and, having picked out
the most tender-hearted boy among my large and choice collection, I
wrote to this victim an alluring epistle, offering him a lovely
carriage-dog whom I had been so fortunate as to find.  Would he like to
have the first look at him and become his owner free of cost?

This being finished and sent to the post, I ordered a big tub of hot
water to be ready early in the morning for my dog's bath, and heartily
wished I could fatten him up over night, as at present he was not an
inviting animal.

Then I retired to my bed, leaving Huckleberry asleep on the rug.  Bless
my heart, how he did snore! and when a very loud one woke him up, he
seemed to feel that it was necessary for him to come and put his cold
nose on my face, or paw at the pillow, till I flew up, thinking it was
robbers.  Then he would apologize in the most contrite manner, and
explain that he only came to see if I was all right, and to express his
thanks all over again.

After which he returned to his rug with a sigh of satisfaction, and
fell asleep much quicker than I could.

In the morning he was escorted to the shed for his bath, to the great
amusement of the servants and the fierce indignation of the cats.  All
five spit and glared from the various elevated refuges to which they
had flown on his entrance; and one black kit made darts at him, looking
like a little demon in her wrath.

Huckleberry behaved like a dog of good manners and temper, and, after
vainly trying to appease the irate pussies, took no notice of them,
being absorbed in his own afflictions.

He did not like the bath, but bore it like a hero, and let me scrub him
till he was as clean as a very spotted bow-wow could be.  He even
submitted to the indignity of a little blanket pinned about his neck
like an old woman, and trotted meekly upstairs after me, leaving the
men and maids in fits of laughter, and the cats curling their whiskers
with scorn at the whole proceeding.

Leaving my wash to dry, I flew out and bought a fine red collar for
him; then I devoted the rest of my day to fussing over him, that he
might be as presentable as possible.

Charley did not come till the next day, and the agonies I went through,
meantime, with that blessed dog, "no mortal creeter knows," as Mrs.
Gamp would say.

I'm afraid I gave him too much meat, or else joy flew to his head and
made him wild, for he developed such a flow of spirits that I felt as
if I had an unchained whirlwind in my room.  He bounced to the window
every time a cart went by; growled at every dog he saw; barked at every
one who entered the room; drank out of my pitcher; worried the rosettes
off my slippers; upset my work-basket, the fire-irons, and two bottles
in his artless play; scratched the paint off the door trying to get
out, and, when he got to the yard, chased all the cats till they fled
over the walls in every direction.

When exhausted with these little amusements, he would come and try to
lick my face, put his paws in my lap, and languish at me with his fine
eyes; and when I told him I couldn't have it, he cast himself at my
feet and squirmed rapturously.

He was a great plague, but I was fond of him, and when Charley came was
sorry that he must leave me.  But he had been on the rampage all that
second night, for I put him in the hall to sleep, and he had scratched
and howled at every door till I let him in to save him from the shower
of boots hurled at him by the young gentlemen whose slumbers he had
disturbed; so it was high time he went.

Charley laughed at him, but, when I had told the story, the good lad
took pity on him and led him away after I had kissed and bade him be a
good dog.  He didn't seem satisfied, but consented to go to please me,
and trotted round the corner, looking so neat and respectable it did my
heart good to see him.

"Now he is settled, and what a comfort that is!" I said to myself as I
restored my devastated home to order.

But he wasn't: oh, dear, no; for in two days back he came, all his own
naughty self, and I found him boldly erect upon the steps waiting for
me.  He had run away and come home to his first friend, sure of a
welcome.

It was very flattering, but also inconvenient; so he was restored to
his master after a scolding and a patting which probably spoilt the
effect of the lecture.

Three times did that dear deluded dog come back, and three times was he
bundled home again.  Then Charley shut him up in an old shed, and kept
him there except when he led him out by a chain for an airing.

But Huckleberry's grateful passion could not be restrained, and cost
him his life in the end.  He amused his leisure hours scratching and
burrowing at the foundation stones of the shed wall, and, being loosely
built, a big one fell on him in some way, hurting him so badly that
there was no cure for his broken bones.

A note from Charley came to me, saying, "If you want to say good-by to
poor old Huckleberry, come out and do it, for I've got to kill him, he
is so hurt."

Of course I went, and there I found him lying on a soft bed of hay,
with his wounds bound up, and tender-hearted Charley watching over him.
How glad he was to see his "missis!"  How hard he tried to come and
meet me! and how satisfied he looked when I bent down to stroke him,
and let him feebly lick my hand as much as he liked!

He could hardly breathe for pain, and his eyes were already dim, but
his dear old tail wagged to the last; and when I had said the tenderest
good-by I knew, he laid down his head with a sigh that seemed to say,--

"Now I'm content, and can die in peace.  I've thanked her, and she is
sorry for me, so it's all right.  You may put me out of pain as soon as
you like.  Master Charley; I'm ready."

It was soon done.  I heard a shot, saw my lad go into the garden with a
pick-axe and a spade, and then I knew that doggie was ready for his
grave.  We wrapped him in a bit of cheerful red carpet, and when a bed
had been delved out for him, we laid the little bundle in, covered it
up, and left the winter snow to spread a soft white pall over poor
Huckleberry's last home.



III.

NELLY'S HOSPITAL.

Nelly sat beside her mother picking lint, but while her fingers flew,
her eyes often looked wistfully out into the meadow, golden with
buttercups, and bright with sunshine.  Presently she said, rather
bashfully, but very earnestly, "Mamma, I want to tell you a little plan
I've made, if you'll please not laugh."

"I think I can safely promise that, my dear," said her mother, putting
down her work that she might listen quite respectfully.

Nelly looked pleased, and went on confidingly.  "Since brother Will
came home with his lame foot, and I've helped you tend him, I've heard
a great deal about hospitals, and liked it very much.  To-day I said I
wanted to go and be a nurse, like Aunt Mercy; but Will laughed, and
told me I'd better begin by nursing sick birds and butterflies and
pussies before I tried to take care of men.  I did not like to be made
fun of, but I've been thinking that it would be very pleasant to have a
little hospital all my own, and be a nurse in it, because, if I took
pains, so many pretty creatures might be made well, perhaps.  Could I,
mamma?"

Her mother wanted to smile at the idea, but did not, for Nelly looked
up with her heart and eyes so full of tender compassion, both for the
unknown men for whom her little hands had done their best, and for the
smaller sufferers nearer home, that she stroked the shining head, and
answered readily: "Yes, Nelly, it will be a proper charity for such a
young Samaritan, and you may learn much if you are in earnest.  You
must study how to feed and nurse your little patients, else your pity
will do no good, and your hospital become a prison.  I will help you,
and Tony shall be your surgeon."

"O mamma, how good you always are to me!  Indeed, I am in truly
earnest; I will learn, I will be kind, and may I go now and begin?"

"You may, but tell me first where will you have your hospital?'

"In my room, mamma; it is so snug and sunny, and I never should forget
it there," said Nelly.

"You must not forget it anywhere.  I think that plan will not do.  How
would you like to find caterpillars walking in your bed, to hear sick
pussies mewing in the night, to have beetles clinging to your clothes,
or see mice, bugs, and birds tumbling downstairs whenever the door was
open?" said her mother.

Nelly laughed at that, thought a minute, then clapped her hands, and
cried: "Let us have the old summer-house!  My doves only use the upper
part, and it would be so like Frank in the story-book.  Please say yes
again, mamma."

Her mother did say yes, and, snatching up her hat, Nelly ran to find
Tony, the gardener's son, a pleasant lad of twelve, who was Nelly's
favorite playmate.  Tony pronounced the plan a "jolly" one, and,
leaving his work, followed his young mistress to the summer-house, for
she could not wait one minute.

"What must we do first?" she asked, as they stood looking in at the
dim, dusty room, full of garden tools, bags of seeds, old flower-pots,
and watering-cans.

"Clear out the rubbish, miss," answered Tony.

"Here it goes, then," and Nelly began bundling every thing out in such
haste that she broke two flower-pots, scattered all the squash-seeds,
and brought a pile of rakes and hoes clattering down about her ears.

"Just wait a bit, and let me take the lead, miss.  You hand me things,
I'll pile 'em in the barrow and wheel 'em off to the barn; then it will
save time, and be finished up tidy."

Nelly did as he advised, and very soon nothing but dust remained.

"What next?" she asked, not knowing in the least.

"I'll sweep up, while you see if Polly can come and scrub the room out.
It ought to be done before you stay here, let alone the patients."

"So it had," said Nelly, looking very wise all of a sudden.  "Will says
the wards--that means the rooms, Tony--are scrubbed every day or two,
and kept very clean, and well venti--something--I can't say it; but it
means having a plenty of air come in.  I can clean windows while Polly
mops, and then we shall soon be done."

Away she ran, feeling very busy and important Polly came, and very soon
the room looked like another place.  The four latticed windows were set
wide open, so the sunshine came dancing through the vines that grew
outside, and curious roses peeped in to see what frolic was afoot.  The
walls shone white again, for not a spider dared to stay; the wide seat
which encircled the room was dustless now, the floor as nice as willing
hands could make it; and the south wind blew away all musty odors with
its fragrant breath.

"How fine it looks!" cried Nelly, dancing on the doorstep, lest a
footprint should mar the still damp floor.

"I'd almost like to fall sick for the sake of staying here," said Tony,
admiringly.  "Now, what sort of beds are you going to have, miss?"

"I suppose it won't do to put butterflies and toads and worms into beds
like the real soldiers where Will was?" answered Nelly, looking anxious.

Tony could hardly help shouting at the idea; but rather than trouble
his little mistress, he said very soberly: "I'm afraid they wouldn't
lay easy, not being used to it.  Tucking up a butterfly would about
kill him; the worms would be apt to get lost among the bedclothes; and
the toads would tumble out the first thing."

"I shall have to ask mamma about it.  What will you do while I'm gone?"
said Nelly, unwilling that a moment should be lost.

"I'll make frames for nettings to the window, else the doves will come
in and eat up the sick people."

"I think they will know that it is a hospital, and be too kind to hurt
or frighten their neighbors," began Nelly; but, as she spoke, a plump
white dove walked in, looked about with its red-ringed eyes, and
quietly pecked up a tiny bug that had just ventured out from the crack
where it had taken refuge when the deluge came.

"Yes, we must have the nettings.  I'll ask mamma for some lace," said
Nelly, when she saw that; and, taking her pet dove on her shoulder,
told it about her hospital as she went toward the house; for, loving
all little creatures as she did, it grieved her to have any harm befall
even the least or plainest of them.  She had a sweet child-fancy that
her playmates understood her language as she did theirs, and that
birds, flowers, animals, and insects felt for her the same affection
which she felt for them.  Love always makes friends, and nothing seemed
to fear the gentle child; but welcomed her like a little sun who shone
alike on all, and never suffered an eclipse.

She was gone some time, and when she came back her mind was full of new
plans, one hand full of rushes, the other of books, while over her head
floated the lace, and a bright green ribbon hung across her arm.

"Mamma says that the best beds will be little baskets, boxes, cages,
and any sort of thing that suits the patient; for each will need
different care and food and medicine.  I have not baskets enough; so,
as I cannot have pretty white beds, I am going to braid pretty green
nests for my patients, and, while I do it, mamma thought you'd read to
me the pages she has marked, so that we may begin right."

"Yes, miss; I like that.  But what is the ribbon for?" asked Tony.

"Oh, that's for you.  Will says that if you are to be an army surgeon,
you must have a green band on your arm; so I got this to tie on when we
play hospital."

Tony let her decorate the sleeve of his gray jacket, and, when the
nettings were done, the welcome books were opened and enjoyed.  It was
a happy time, sitting in the sunshine, with leaves pleasantly astir all
about them, doves cooing overhead, and flowers sweetly gossiping
together through the summer afternoon.  Nelly wove her smooth, green
rushes, Tony pored over his pages, and both found something better than
fairy legends in the family histories of insects, birds, and beasts.
All manner of wonders appeared, and were explained to them, till Nelly
felt as if a new world had been given her, so full of beauty, interest,
and pleasure that she never could be tired of studying it.  Many of
these things were not strange to Tony, because, born among plants, he
had grown up with them as if they were brothers and sisters, and the
sturdy, brown-faced boy had learned many lessons which no poet or
philosopher could have taught him, unless he had become as childlike as
himself, and studied from the same great book.

When the baskets were done, the marked pages all read, and the sun
began to draw his rosy curtains round him before smiling "Good-night,"
Nelly ranged the green beds round the room, Tony put in the screens,
and the hospital was ready.  The little nurse was so excited that she
could hardly eat her supper, and directly afterwards ran up to tell
Will how well she had succeeded with the first part of her enterprise.
Now brother Will was a brave young officer, who had fought stoutly and
done his duty like a man.  But, when lying weak and wounded at home,
the cheerful courage which had led him safely through many dangers
seemed to have deserted him, and he was often gloomy, sad, or fretful,
because he longed to be at his post again, and time passed very slowly.
This troubled his mother, and made Nelly wonder why he found lying in a
pleasant room so much harder than fighting battles or making weary
marches.  Any thing that interested and amused him was very welcome,
and when Nelly, climbing on the arm of his sofa, told her plans,
mishaps, and successes, he laughed out more heartily than he had done
for many a day, and his thin face began to twinkle with fun as it used
to do so long ago.  That pleased Nelly, and she chatted like any
affectionate little magpie, till Will was really interested; for when
one is ill, small things amuse.

"Do you expect your patients to come to you, Nelly?" he asked.

"No, I shall go and look for them.  I often see poor things suffering
in the garden, and the woods, and always feel as if they ought to be
taken care of as people are."

"You won't like to carry insane bugs, lame toads, and convulsive
kittens in your hands, and they would not stay on a stretcher if you
had one.  You should have an ambulance, and be a branch of the Sanitary
Commission," said Will.

Nelly had often heard the words, but did not quite understand what they
meant.  So Will told her of that great and never-failing charity, to
which thousands owe their lives; and the child listened with lips
apart, eyes often full, and so much love and admiration in her heart
that she could find no words in which to tell it.  When her brother
paused, she said earnestly: "Yes, I will be a Sanitary.  This little
cart of mine shall be my ambulance, and I'll never let my water-barrels
go empty, never drive too fast, or be rough with my poor passengers,
like some of the men you tell about.  Does this look like an ambulance,
Will?"

"Not a bit; but it shall, if you and mamma like to help me.  I want
four long bits of cane, a square of white cloth, some pieces of thin
wood, and the gum-pot," said Will, sitting up to examine the little
cart, feeling like a boy again, as he took out his knife and began to
whittle.

Upstairs and downstairs ran Nelly till all necessary materials were
collected, and almost breathlessly she watched her brother arch the
canes over the cart, cover them with the cloth, and fit in an upper
shelf of small compartments, each lined with cotton wool to serve as
beds for wounded insects, lest they should hurt one another or jostle
out.  The lower part was left free for any larger creatures which Nelly
might find.  Among her toys she had a tiny cask which only needed a peg
to be water-tight: this was filled and fitted in before, because, as
the small sufferers needed no seats, there was no place for it behind,
and, as Nelly was both horse and driver, it was more convenient in
front.  On each side of it stood a box of stores.  In one were minute
rollers, as bandages are called, a few bottles not yet filled, and a
wee doll's jar of cold-cream, because Nelly could not feel that her
outfit was complete without a medicine-chest.  The other box was full
of crumbs, bits of sugar, bird-seed, and grains of wheat and corn, lest
any famished stranger should die for want of food before she got it
home.  Then mamma painted "U. S. San. Com." in bright letters on the
cover, and Nelly received her charitable plaything with a long sigh of
satisfaction.

"Nine o'clock already!  Bless me, what a short evening this has been!"
exclaimed Will, as Nelly came to give him her good-night kiss.

"And such a happy one," she answered.  "Thank you very, very much, dear
Will.  I only wish my little ambulance was big enough for you to go
in,--I'd so like to give you the first ride."

"Nothing I should like better, if it were possible, though I've a
prejudice against ambulances in general.  But, as I cannot ride, I'll
try and hop out to your hospital to-morrow, and see how you get
on,"--which was a great deal for Captain Will to say, because he had
been too listless to leave his sofa for several days.

That promise sent Nelly happily away to bed, only stopping to pop her
head out of the window to see if it was likely to be a fair day
to-morrow, and to tell Tony about the new plan as he passed below.

"Where shall you go to look for your first load of sick folks, miss?"
he asked.

"All round the garden first, then through the grove, and home across
the brook.  Do you think I can find any patients so?" said Nelly.

"I know you will.  Good-night, miss," and Tony walked away with a merry
look on his face, that Nelly would not have understood if she had seen
it.

Up rose the sun bright and early, and up rose Nurse Nelly almost as
early and as bright.  Breakfast was taken in a great hurry, and before
the dew was off the grass this branch of the S. C. was all astir.
Papa, mamma, big brother and baby sister, men and maids, all looked out
to see the funny little ambulance depart, and nowhere in all the summer
fields was there a happier child than Nelly, as she went smiling down
the garden path, where tall flowers kissed her as she passed, and every
blithe bird seemed singing a "Good speed."

"How I wonder what I shall find first," she thought, looking sharply on
all sides as she went.  Crickets chirped, grasshoppers leaped, ants
worked busily at their subterranean houses, spiders spun shining webs
from twig to twig, bees were coming for their bags of gold, and
butterflies had just begun their holiday.  A large white one alighted
on the top of the ambulance, walked over the inscription as if spelling
it letter by letter, then floated away from flower to flower, like one
carrying the good news far and wide.

"Now every one will know about the hospital, and be glad to see me
coming," thought Nelly.  And indeed it seemed so, for just then a
blackbird, sitting on the garden wall, burst out with a song full of
musical joy, Nelly's kitten came running after to stare at the wagon
and rub her soft side against it, a bright-eyed toad looked out from
his cool bower among the lily-leaves, and at that minute Nelly found
her first patient.  In one of the dewy cobwebs hanging from a shrub
near by, sat a fat black and yellow spider, watching a fly whose
delicate wings were just caught in the net.  The poor fly buzzed
pitifully, and struggled so hard that the whole web shook; but the more
he struggled, the more he entangled himself, and the fierce spider was
preparing to descend that it might weave a shroud about its prey, when
a little finger broke the threads and lifted the fly safely into the
palm of a hand, where he lay faintly humming his thanks.

Nelly had heard much about contrabands, knew who they were, and was
very much interested in them; so, when she freed the poor black fly,
she played he was her contraband, and felt glad that her first patient
was one that needed help so much.  Carefully brushing away as much of
the web as she could, she left small Pompey, as she named him, to free
his own legs, lest her clumsy fingers should hurt him; then she laid
him in one of the soft beds with a grain or two of sugar if he needed
refreshment, and bade him rest and recover from his fright, remembering
that he was at liberty to fly away whenever he liked, because she had
no wish to make a slave of him.

Feeling very happy over this new friend, Nelly went on singing softly
as she walked, and presently she found a pretty caterpillar dressed in
brown fur, although the day was warm.  He lay so still she thought him
dead, till he rolled himself into a ball as she touched him.

"I think you are either faint from the heat of this thick coat of
yours, or that you are going to make a cocoon of yourself, Mr. Fuzz,"
said Nelly.  "Now I want to see you turn into a butterfly, so I shall
take you, and if you get lively again I will let you go.  I shall play
that you have given out on a march, as the soldiers sometimes do, and
been left behind for the sanitary people to see to."

In went sulky Mr. Fuzz, and on trundled the ambulance till a
golden-green rose-beetle was discovered, lying on his back kicking as
if in a fit.

"Dear me, what shall I do for him?" thought Nelly.  "He acts as baby
did when she was so ill, and mamma put her in a warm bath.  I haven't
got my little tub here, or any hot water, and I'm afraid the beetle
would not like it if I had.  Perhaps he has pain in his stomach; I'll
turn him over, and pat his back, as nurse does baby's when she cries
for pain like that."

She set the beetle on his legs, and did her best to comfort him; but he
was evidently in great distress, for he could not walk, and instead of
lifting his emerald overcoat, and spreading the wings that lay
underneath, he turned over again, and kicked more violently than
before.  Not knowing what to do, Nelly put him into one of her soft
nests for Tony to cure if possible.  She found no more patients in the
garden except a dead bee, which she wrapped in a leaf, and took home to
bury.  When she came to the grove, it was so green and cool she longed
to sit and listen to the whisper of the pines, and watch the
larch-tassels wave in the wind.  But, recollecting her charitable
errand, she went rustling along the pleasant path till she came to
another patient, over which she stood considering several minutes
before she could decide whether it was best to take it to her hospital,
because it was a little gray snake, with a bruised tail.  She knew it
would not hurt her, yet she was afraid of it; she thought it pretty,
yet could not like it; she pitied its pain, yet shrunk from helping it,
for it had a fiery eye, and a sharp quivering tongue, that looked as if
longing to bite.

"He is a rebel, I wonder if I ought to be good to him," thought Nelly,
watching the reptile writhe with pain.  "Will said there were sick
rebels in his hospital, and one was very kind to him.  It says, too, in
my little book, 'Love your enemies.'  I think snakes are mine, but I
guess I'll try and love him because God made him.  Some boy will kill
him if I leave him here, and then perhaps his mother will be very sad
about it.  Come, poor worm, I wish to help you, so be patient, and
don't frighten me."

Then Nelly laid her little handkerchief on the ground, and with a stick
gently lifted the wounded snake upon it, and, folding it together, laid
it in the ambulance.  She was thoughtful after that, and so busy
puzzling her young head about the duty of loving those who hate us, and
being kind to those who are disagreeable or unkind, that she went
through the rest of the wood quite forgetful of her work.  A soft
"Queek, queek!" made her look up and listen.  The sound came from the
long meadow grass, and, bending it carefully back, she found a
half-fledged bird, with one wing trailing on the ground, and its eyes
dim with pain or hunger.

"You darling thing, did you fall out of your nest and hurt your wing?"
cried Nelly, looking up into the single tree that stood near by.  No
nest was to be seen, no parent-birds hovered overhead, and little Robin
could only tell its troubles in that mournful "Queek, queek, queek!"

Nelly ran to get both her chests, and, sitting down beside the bird,
tried to feed it.  To her great joy it ate crumb after crumb as if it
were half starved, and soon fluttered nearer with a confiding
fearlessness that made her very proud.  Soon Baby Robin seemed quite
comfortable, his eye brightened, he "queeked" no more, and but for the
drooping wing would have been himself again.  With one of her bandages
Nelly bound both wings closely to his sides for fear he should hurt
himself by trying to fly; and, though he seemed amazed at her
proceedings, he behaved very well, only staring at her, and ruffling up
his few feathers in a funny way that made her laugh.  Then she had to
discover some way of accommodating her two larger patients, so that
neither should hurt nor alarm the other.  A bright thought came to her
after much pondering.  Carefully lifting the handkerchief, she pinned
the two ends to the roof of the cart, and there swung little
Forked-tongue, while Rob lay easily below.

By this time Nelly began to wonder how it happened that she found so
many more injured things than ever before.  But it never entered her
innocent head that Tony had searched the wood and meadow before she was
up, and laid most of these creatures ready to her hands, that she might
not be disappointed.  She had not yet lost her faith in fairies, so she
fancied they too belonged to her small sisterhood, and presently it did
really seem impossible to doubt that the good folk had been at work.

Coming to the bridge that crossed the brook, she stopped a moment to
watch the water ripple over the bright pebbles, the ferns bend down to
drink, and the funny tadpoles frolic in quieter nooks where the sun
shone, and the dragon-flies swung among the rushes.  When Nelly turned
to go on, her blue eyes opened wide, and the handle of the ambulance
dropped with a noise that caused a stout frog to skip into the water
heels over head.  Directly in the middle of the bridge was a pretty
green tent, made of two tall burdock leaves.  The stems were stuck into
cracks between the boards, the tips were pinned together with a thorn,
and one great buttercup nodded in the doorway like a sleepy sentinel.
Nelly stared and smiled, listened, and looked about on every side.
Nothing was seen but the quiet meadow and the shady grove, nothing was
heard but the babble of the brook and the cheery music of the bobolinks.

"Yes," said Nelly softly to herself, "that is a fairy tent, and in it I
may find a baby elf sick with whooping-cough or scarlet fever.  How
splendid it would be! only I could never nurse such a dainty thing."

Stooping eagerly, she peeped over the buttercup's drowsy head, and saw
what seemed a tiny cock of hay.  She had no time to feel disappointed,
for the haycock began to stir, and, looking nearer, she beheld two
silvery-gray mites, who wagged wee tails, and stretched themselves as
if they had just waked up.  Nelly knew that they were young field-mice,
and rejoiced over them, feeling rather relieved that no fairy had
appeared, though she still believed them to have had a hand in the
matter.

"I shall call the mice my Babes in the Wood, because they are lost and
covered up with leaves," said Nelly, as she laid them in her snuggest
bed, where they nestled close together, and fell fast asleep again.

Being very anxious to get home, that she might tell her adventures, and
show how great was the need of a sanitary commission in that region,
Nelly marched proudly up the avenue, and, having displayed her load,
hurried to the hospital where another applicant was waiting for her.
On the step of the door lay a large turtle, with one claw gone, and on
his back was pasted a bit of paper with his name, "Commodore Waddle,
U.S.N."  Nelly knew this was a joke of Will's, but welcomed the ancient
mariner, and called Tony to help her get him in.

All that morning they were very busy settling the new-comers, for both
people and books had to be consulted before they could decide what diet
and treatment was best for each.  The winged contraband had taken Nelly
at her word, and flown away on the journey home.  Little Rob was put in
a large cage, where he could use his legs, yet not injure his lame
wing.  Forked-tongue lay under a wire cover, on sprigs of fennel, for
the gardener said that snakes were fond of it.  The Babes in the Wood
were put to bed in one of the rush baskets, under a cotton-wool
coverlet.  Greenback, the beetle, found ease for his unknown aches in
the warm heart of a rose, where he sunned himself all day.  The
Commodore was made happy in a tub of water, grass, and stones, and Mr.
Fuzz was put in a well-ventilated glass box to decide whether he would
be a cocoon or not.

Tony had not been idle while his mistress was away, and he showed her
the hospital garden he had made close by, in which were cabbage,
nettle, and mignonette plants for the butterflies, flowering herbs for
the bees, chickweed and hemp for the birds, catnip for the pussies, and
plenty of room left for whatever other patients might need.  In the
afternoon, while Nelly did her task at lint-picking, talking busily to
Will as she worked, and interesting him in her affairs, Tony cleared a
pretty spot in the grove for the burying-ground, and made ready some
small bits of slate on which to write the names of those who died.  He
did not have it ready an hour too soon, for at sunset two little graves
were needed, and Nurse Nelly shed tender tears for her first losses as
she laid the motherless mice in one smooth hollow, and the gray-coated
rebel in the other.  She had learned to care for him already, and, when
she found him dead, was very glad she had been kind to him, hoping that
he knew it, and died happier in her hospital than all alone in the
shadowy wood.

The rest of Nelly's patients prospered, and of the many added afterward
few died, because of Tony's skilful treatment and her own faithful
care.  Every morning when the day proved fair the little ambulance went
out upon its charitable errand; every afternoon Nelly worked for the
human sufferers whom she loved; and every evening brother Will read
aloud to her from useful books, showed her wonders with his microscope,
or prescribed remedies for the patients, whom he soon knew by name and
took much interest in.  It was Nelly's holiday; but, though she studied
no lessons, she learned much, and unconsciously made her pretty play
both an example and a rebuke for others.

At first it seemed a childish pastime, and people laughed.  But there
was something in the familiar words "Sanitary," "hospital," and
"ambulance" that made them pleasant sounds to many ears.  As reports of
Nelly's work went through the neighborhood, other children came to see
and copy her design.  Rough lads looked ashamed when in her wards they
found harmless creatures hurt by them, and going out they said among
themselves, "We won't stone birds, chase butterflies, and drown the
girls' little cats any more, though we won't tell them so."  And most
of the lads kept their word so well that people said there never had
been so many birds before as all that summer haunted wood and field.
Tender-hearted playmates brought their pets to be cured; even busy
fathers had a friendly word for the small charity, which reminded them
so sweetly of the great one which should never be forgotten; lonely
mothers sometimes looked out with wet eyes as the little ambulance went
by, recalling thoughts of absent sons who might be journeying painfully
to some far-off hospital, where brave women waited to tend them with
hands as willing, hearts as tender, as those the gentle child gave to
her self-appointed task.

At home the charm worked also.  No more idle days for Nelly, or fretful
ones for Will, because the little sister would not neglect the helpless
creatures so dependent upon her, and the big brother was ashamed to
complain after watching the patience of these lesser sufferers, and
merrily said he would try to bear his own wound as quietly and bravely
as the "Commodore" bore his.  Nelly never knew how much good she had
done Captain Will till he went away again in the early autumn.  Then he
thanked her for it, and though she cried for joy and sorrow she never
forgot it, because he left something behind him which always pleasantly
reminded her of the double success her little hospital had won.

When Will was gone, and she had prayed softly in her heart that God
would keep him safe and bring him home again, she dried her tears and
went away to find comfort in the place where he had spent so many happy
hours with her.  She had not been there before that day, and when she
reached the door she stood quite still and wanted very much to cry
again, for something beautiful had happened.  She had often asked Will
for a motto for her hospital, and he had promised to find her one.  She
thought he had forgotten it; but even in the hurry of that busy day he
had found time to do more than keep his word, while Nelly sat indoors,
lovingly brightening the tarnished buttons on the blue coat that had
seen so many battles.

Above the roof, where the doves cooed in the sun, now rustled a white
flag with the golden "S.C." shining on it as the west wind tossed it to
and fro.  Below, on the smooth panel of the door, a skilful pencil had
drawn two arching ferns, in whose soft shadow, poised upon a mushroom,
stood a little figure of Nurse Nelly, and underneath it another of Dr.
Tony bottling medicine, with spectacles upon his nose.  Both hands of
the miniature Nelly were outstretched, as if beckoning to a train of
insects, birds, and beasts, which was so long that it not only circled
round the lower rim of this fine sketch, but dwindled in the distance
to mere dots and lines.  Such merry conceits as one found there!  A
mouse bringing the tail it had lost in some cruel trap, a dor-bug with
a shade over its eyes, an invalid butterfly carried in a tiny litter by
long-legged spiders, a fat frog with gouty feet hopping upon crutches,
Jenny Wren sobbing in a nice handkerchief, as she brought poor dear
dead Cock Robin to be restored to life.  Rabbits, lambs, cats, calves,
and turtles, all came trooping up to be healed by the benevolent little
maid who welcomed them so heartily.

Nelly laughed at these comical mites till the tears ran down her
cheeks, and thought she never could be tired of looking at them.  But
presently she saw four lines clearly printed underneath her picture,
and her childish face grew sweetly serious as she read the words of a
great poet, which Will had made both compliment and motto:--

  "He prayeth best who loveth best
    All things, both great and small;
  For the dear God who loveth us,
    He made and loveth all."



IV.

GRANDMA'S TEAM.

"It's no use, I can't find a horse anywhere, for love or money.  All
are either sick or kept quiet to-day for fear of being sick.  I declare
I'd almost rather lose Major than disappoint mother," said Farmer
Jenks, coming in on Sunday morning from a fruitless visit to his
neighbors.

It was in the height of the horse distemper, and his own valuable beast
stood in the stall, looking very interesting, with his legs in red
flannel bandages, an old shawl round his neck, his body well covered by
blankets, and a pensive expression in his fine eyes as he coughed and
groaned distressfully.

You see it was particularly unfortunate to have Major give out on
Sunday, for grandma had been to church, rain or shine, every Sunday for
twenty years, and it was the pride of her life to be able to say this.
She was quite superstitious about it, and really felt as if her
wonderful health and strength were given her as a reward for her
unfailing devotion.

A sincerely pious and good old lady was Grandma Jenks, and her entry
into the church always made a little sensation, for she was eighty-five
years old, yet hale and hearty, with no affliction but lame feet.  So
every Sunday, all the year round, her son or grandsons drove her down
to service in the wide, low chaise, got expressly for her benefit, and
all the week seemed brighter and better for the quiet hour spent in the
big pew.

"If the steeple should fall, folks wouldn't miss it any more than they
would old Mrs. Jenks from her corner," was a saying among the people,
and grandma felt as if she was not only a public character, but a
public example for all to follow, for another saying in the town was,--

"Well, if old Mrs. Jenks can go to meeting, there's no excuse for our
staying at home."

That pleased her, and so when the farmer came in with his bad news, she
looked deeply disappointed, sat still a minute tapping her hymn-book,
then took her two canes and got up, saying resolutely,--

"A merciful man is merciful to his beast, so I won't have poor Major
risk his life for me, but I shall walk."

A general outcry followed, for grandma was very lame, church a mile
away, and the roads muddy after the rain.

"You can't do it mother, and you'll be sick for the winter if you try,"
cried Mrs. Jenks, in great trouble.

"No, dear; I guess the Lord will give me strength, since I'm going to
His house," answered the old lady, walking slowly to the door.

"Blest if I wouldn't carry you myself if I only could, mother,"
exclaimed the farmer, helping her down the steps with filial gentleness.

Here Ned and Charley, the boys, laughed, for grandma was very stout,
and the idea of their father carrying her tickled them immensely.

"Boys, I'm ashamed of you!" said their mother, frowning at them.  But
grandma laughed too, and said pleasantly,--

"I won't be a burden, Moses; give me your arm and I'll step out as well
as I can, and mebby some one may come along and give me a lift."

So the door was locked and the family set off.  But it was hard work
for the old lady, and soon she said she must sit down and rest a spell.
As they stood waiting for her, all looking anxious, the boys suddenly
had a bright idea, and, merely saying they had forgotten something,
raced up the hill again.

"I'm afraid you won't be able to do it, mother," the farmer was just
saying, when the sound of an approaching carriage made them all turn to
look, hoping for a lift.

Nearer and nearer drew the rattle, and round the corner came, not a
horse's head, but two felt hats on two boys' heads, and Charley and Ned
appeared, trotting briskly, with the chaise behind them.

"Here's your team, grandma!  Jump in, and we'll get you to meeting in
good time yet," cried the lads, smiling and panting as they drew up
close to the stone where the old lady sat.

"Boys, boys, it's Sunday, and we can't have any jokes or nonsense now,"
began Mrs. Jenks, looking much scandalized.

"Well, I don't know, wife.  It's a new thing, I allow, but considering
the fix we are in, I'm not sure it isn't a good plan.  What do _you_
think, mother?" asked the farmer, laughing, yet well pleased at the
energy and good-will of his lads.

"If the boys behave themselves, and do it as a duty, not a frolic, and
don't upset me, I reckon I'll let 'em try, for I don't believe I can
get there any other way," said grandma.

"You hoped the Lord would give you strength, and so He has, in this
form.  Use it, mother, and thank Him for it, since the children love
you so well they would run their legs off to serve you," said the
farmer, soberly, as he helped the old lady in and folded the robes
round her feet.

"Steady, boys, no pranks, and stop behind the sheds.  I can lend mother
an arm there, and she can walk across the green.  This turn-out is all
very well, but we won't make a show of it."

Away went the chaise rolling gently down the hill, and the new span
trotted well together, while the old lady sat calmly inside, frequently
saying,--

"Don't pull too hard, Ned.  I'm afraid I'm very heavy for you to draw,
Charley.  Take it easy, dears; there's time enough, time enough."

"You'll never hear the last of this, Moses; it will be a town joke for
months to come," said Mrs. Jenks, as she and her husband walked briskly
after the triumphal car.

"Don't care if I do hear on't for a considerable spell.  It's nothing
to be ashamed of, and I guess you'll find that folks will agree with
me, even if they do laugh," answered the farmer, stoutly; and he was
right.

Pausing behind the sheds, grandma was handed out, and the family went
into church, a little late but quite decorously, and as if nothing
funny had occurred.  To be sure, Ned and Charley were very red and hot,
and now and then stole looks at one another with a roguish twinkle of
the eye; but a nudge from mother or a shake of the head from father
kept them in good order, while dear old grandma couldn't do enough to
show her gratitude.  She passed a fan, she handed peppermints in her
hymn-book, and when Ned sneezed begged him to put her shawl over his
shoulders.

After church the lads slipped away and harnessed themselves all ready
for the homeward trip.  But they had to wait, for grandma met some
friends and stopped to "reminiss," as she called it, and her son did
not hurry her, thinking it as well to have the coast clear before his
new team appeared.

It was dull and cold behind the sheds, and the boys soon got impatient.
Their harness was rather intricate, and they did not want to take it
off, so they stood chafing and grumbling at the delay.

"You are nearest, so just hand out that blanket and put it over me; I'm
as cold as a stone," said Ned, who was leader.

"I want it myself, if I've got to wait here much longer," grumbled
Charley, sitting on the whiffletree, with his legs curled up.

"You're a selfish pig!  I'm sure I shall have the horse-cough to-morrow
if you don't cover me up."

"Now you know why father is so particular about making us cover Major
when we leave him standing.  You never do it if you can help it, so how
do you like it yourself?"

"Whether I like it or not, I'll warm you when we get home, see if I
don't, old fellow."

Up came the elders and away went the ponies, but they had a hard tug of
it this time.  Grandma was not a light weight, the road pretty steep in
places, and the mud made heavy going.  Such a puffing and panting,
heaving and hauling, was never heard or seen there before.  The farmer
put his shoulder to the wheel, and even Mrs. Jenks tucked up her black
silk skirts, and gave an occasional tug at one shaft.

Grandma bemoaned her cruelty, and begged to get out, but the lads
wouldn't give up, so with frequent stoppages, some irrepressible
laughter, and much persistent effort, the old lady was safely landed at
the front door.

No sooner was she fairly down than she did what I fancy might have a
good effect on four-legged steeds, if occasionally tried.  She hugged
both boys, patted and praised them, helped pull off their harness, and
wiped their hot foreheads with her own best Sunday handkerchief, then
led them in and fed them well.

The lads were in high feather at the success of their exploit, and each
showed it in a different way.  Charley laughed and talked about it,
offered to trot grandma out any day, and rejoiced in the strength of
his muscles, and his soundness in wind and limb.

But Ned sat silently eating his dinner, and when some one asked him if
he remembered the text of the sermon, he answered in grandma's words,
"A merciful man is merciful to his beast."

"Well, I don't care, that's the only text I remember, and I got a
sermon out of it, any way," he said, when the rest laughed at him, and
asked what he was thinking about.

"I seem to know now how Major feels when we keep him waiting, when I
don't blanket him, and when I expect him to pull his heart out, with no
time to get his breath.  I'm going to beg his pardon after dinner, and
tell him all about it."

Charley stopped laughing when sober Ned said that, and he saw his
father and mother nod to one another as if well pleased.

"I'll go too, and tell the old fellow that I mean to uncheck him going
up hill, to scotch the wheels so he can rest, and be ever so good to
him if he'll only get well."

"You might add that you mean to treat him like a horse and a brother,
for you have turned pony yourself," said his father, when Charley
finished his virtuous remarks.

"And don't forget to pet him a good deal, my dears, for horses like to
be loved, and praised, and thanked, as well as boys, and we can't do
too much for the noble creatures who are so faithful and useful to us,"
said Mrs. Jenks, quite touched by the new state of feeling.

"It's my opinion that this sickness among the horses will do a deal of
good, by showing folks the great value of the beasts they abuse and
neglect.  Neighbor Stone is fussing over his old Whitey as if he was a
child, and yet I've seen that poor brute unmercifully beaten, and kept
half starved.  I told Stone that if he lost him it would be because
kind treatment came too late; and Stone never got mad, but went and
poured vinegar over a hot brick under Whitey's nose till he 'most
sneezed his head off.  Stone has got a lesson this time, and so have
some other folks."

As the farmer spoke, he glanced at the boys, who remorsefully recalled
the wrongs poor Major had suffered at their hands, not from cruelty,
but thoughtlessness, and both resolved to treat him like a friend for
evermore.

"Well," said grandma, looking with tender pride at the ruddy faces on
either side of her, "I'm thankful to say that I've never missed a
Sunday for twenty year, and I've been in all sorts of weather, and in
all sorts of ways, even on an ox sled one time when the drifts were
deep, but I never went better than to-day; so in this dish of tea I'm
going to drink this toast: 'Easy roads, light loads, and kind drivers
to grandma's team.'"



V

FAIRY PINAFORES.

After Cinderella was married and settled, her god-mother looked about
for some other clever bit of work to do, for she was not only the best,
but the busiest little old lady that ever lived.  Now the city was in a
sad state, for all it looked so fine and seemed so gay.  The old king
was very lazy and sat all day in his great easy-chair, taking naps and
reading newspapers, while the old queen sat opposite in _her_
easy-chair, taking naps and knitting gold-thread stockings for her son.
The prince was a fine young man, but rather wild, and fonder of running
after pretty young ladies with small feet than of attending to the
kingdom.

The wise god-mother knew that Cinderella would teach him better things
by and by, but the old lady could not wait for that.  So, after talking
the matter over with her ancient cat, Silverwhisker, she put on her red
cloak, her pointed hat and high-heeled shoes, took her cane and trotted
away to carry out her plan.  She was so fond of making people happy
that it kept her brisk and young in spite of her years; and, for all I
know, she may be trotting up and down the world this very day, red
cloak, pointed hat, high-heeled shoes, and all.

In her drives about the city, she had been much grieved to see so many
beggar-children, ragged, hungry, sick, and cold, with no friends to
care for them, no homes to shelter them, and no one to teach, help, or
comfort them.  When Cinderella's troubles were well over, the good
god-mother resolved to attend to this matter, and set about it in the
following manner:--

She went into the poor streets, and whenever she found a homeless child
she bade it come with her; and so motherly was her face, so kind her
voice, that not one feared or refused.  Soon she had gathered a hundred
little boys and girls,--a sad sight, for some were lame, some blind,
some deformed, many black and many ugly, all hungry, ragged, and
forlorn, but all dear children in her sight, for the little hearts were
not spoilt, and her fairy power could work all miracles.  When she had
enough, she led them beyond the city gates into the beautiful country
and no one saw them go, for she made them invisible to other eyes.
Wondering, yet contented, they trooped along, delighted with all they
saw.  The strong helped the weak; those who could see described the
lovely sights to the blind; the hungry found berries all along the
road; the sick gladly breathed the fresh air, and to none did the way
seem long, for green grass was underneath their feet, blue sky
overhead, and summer sunshine everywhere.

As they came out from a pleasant wood, a great shouting arose, when the
god-mother pointed to a lovely place and told them that was home.  She
had but to wish for any thing and it was hers; so she had wished for a
Children's Home, and there it was.  In a wide meadow stood a large, low
house, with many blooming little gardens before it, and sunny fields
behind it, full of pretty tame creatures, who came running as if to
welcome and tell the children that their holiday had begun.  In they
went, and stood quite breathless with wonder and delight, all was so
pleasant and so new.  There were no stairs to tire little feet with
climbing up, or to bump little heads with tumbling down, but four large
rooms opening one into the other, with wide doors and sunny windows on
every side.

In one stood a hundred clean white beds, with a hundred little, clean
white caps and gowns ready for the night.  Dark curtains made a
comfortable twilight here, and through the room sounded a soft lullaby
from an unseen instrument, so soothing that all the children gaped at
once and began to nod like a field of poppies.

"Yes, yes, that will work well, I see; but it is not yet time for bed,"
said the god-mother, and, touching another spring, there instantly
sounded a lively air, which would wake the soundest sleeper and make
him skip gayly out of bed.

In the second room was a bath, so large that it looked like a shallow
lake.  A pretty marble child stood blowing bubbles in the middle, and
pink and white shells, made of soap, lay along the brim.  The pool was
lined with soft sponges, and heaps of towels were scattered about, so
that while the little folks splashed and romped they got finely washed
and wiped before they knew it.

In the third room stood a long table, surrounded by low chairs, so no
one could tip over.  Two rows of bright silver porringers shone down
the table; a fountain of milk played in the middle, and on a little
railway, that ran round the table, went mimic cars loaded with bread,
funny donkeys with panniers of berries on either side, and small men
and women carrying trays of seed-cakes, gingerbread, and all the
goodies that children may safely eat.  Thus every one got quickly and
quietly served, and meals would be merry-makings, not scenes of noise
and confusion, as is often the case where many little mouths are to be
filled.

The fourth room was larger than any of the others, being meant for both
work and play.  The wails were all pictures, which often changed,
showing birds, beasts, and flowers, every country, and the history of
the world; so one could study many things, you see.  The floor was
marked out for games of all kinds, and quantities of toys lay ready for
the little hands that till now had owned so few.  On one side long
windows opened into the gardens, and on the other were recesses full of
books to study and to read.

At first, the poor children could only look and sigh for happiness,
finding it hard to believe that all this comfort could be meant for
them.  But the god-mother soon made them feel that this was home, for,
gathering them tenderly about her, she said,--

"Dear little creatures, you have had no care, no love or happiness, all
your short, sad lives; but now you are mine, and here you shall soon
become the blithest, busiest children ever seen.  Come, now, and splash
in this fine pond; then we will have supper and play, and then to bed,
for to-morrow will be a long holiday for all of us."

As she spoke, the children's rags vanished, and they sprang into the
bath, eager to pick up the pretty shells and see the marble child, who,
smiling, blew great bubbles that sailed away over their heads.

Great was the splashing and loud the laughter as the little people
floated in the warm pool and romped among the towel-cocks, while the
god-mother, in a quiet corner, bathed the sick and bound up the hurts
of those whom cruel hands had wounded.

As fast as the children were washed, they were surprised to find
themselves clothed all in a minute in pretty, comfortable suits, that
pleased their eyes, and yet were not too fine for play.  Soon a ring of
happy faces shone round the table.  The fountain poured its milky
stream into every porringer, the mimic cars left their freight at each
place, the donkeys trotted, and the little market-men and women tripped
busily up and down, while the god-mother went tapping about, putting on
bibs, helping the shy ones, and feeding the babies who could not feed
themselves.  When all were satisfied, the fountain ceased to play, the
engine let off steam, the donkeys kicked up their heels to empty the
panniers, the bibs folded themselves up, the porringers each turned a
somerset and came down clean, and all was ready for breakfast.

Then the children played for an hour in the lovely play-room, often
stopping to wonder if they wouldn't presently wake up and find it all a
dream.  Lest they should get quite wild with excitement, the god-mother
soon led them to the great bedroom, and ordered on the caps and gowns,
which was done before the children could wink.  Then she taught them
the little prayer all children love, and laid them in their cosey beds,
with a good-night kiss for each.  The lullaby-flute began to play,
weary eyelids to close, and soon a hundred happy little souls lay fast
asleep in the Children's Home.

For a long time the old lady let her family do nothing but enjoy
themselves.  Every morning they were led out into the meadow like a
flock of lambs, there to frisk all day with their healthful playmates,
sun and air, green grass, and exercise, for, being a wise woman, she
left them to the magic of a better nurse than herself, and Nature, the
dear god-mother of the world, did her work so well that soon no one
would have known the rosy, happy troop for the forlorn little creatures
who had come there.

Then the old lady was satisfied, and said to herself,--

"Now they may work a little, else they will learn to love idleness.
What shall I give them to do that will employ their hands, make them
happy, and be of use to others?"

Now, like many other excellent old ladies, the god-mother had a pet
idea, and it was _pinafores_.  In her day all children wore them, were
simply dressed, healthy, gay, and good.  At the present time foolish
mothers dressed their little ones like dolls, and the poor things were
half-smothered with finery.  At home there was a constant curling and
brushing, tying of sashes and fussing with frills, abroad there was no
fun, for hats, top-heavy with feathers, burdened their heads, fine
cloaks and coats were to be taken care of, smart boots, in which they
couldn't run, were on their feet, and dainty little gloves prevented
their ever making dear dirt-pies.  Very cross and fretful were the poor
little people made by all this, though they hardly knew what the matter
was, and the foolish mammas wondered and sighed, sent for Dr. Camomile,
and declared there were never seen such naughty children before.

"Put on pinafores, and let them romp at their ease, and you will mend
all this," said the god-mother, who knew everybody.

But the fine ladies were shocked, and cried out: "My dear madam, it is
impossible, for pinafores are entirely out of fashion," and there it
ended.

But the old lady never gave up her idea, and when she had successfully
tried it with her large family, she felt sure that much of the health
and happiness of children lay in big, sensible pinafores and plenty of
freedom.

"I'll show them the worth of my idea," she said, as she sat thinking,
with her eyes on the blue flax-fields shining in the sun.  "These poor
children shall help the rich ones, who never helped them, and we will
astonish the city by the miracles we'll work."

With that she clapped her hands, and in a minute the room was filled
with little looms and spinning-wheels, thimbles and needles, reels for
winding thread, and all necessary tools for the manufacture of fairy
pinafores.  She could have wished for them already made, but she
thought it better to teach the children some useful lessons, and keep
them busy as well as happy.

Soon they were all at work, and no one was awkward or grew tired, for
the wheels and looms were enchanted; so, though the boys and girls knew
nothing of the matter when they began, they obeyed the old lady, who
said,--

  "A good will
  Giveth skill,"

and presently were spinning and weaving, reeling and sewing, as if they
had done nothing else all their lives.

Many days they worked, with long play spells between, and at last there
lay a hundred wonderful pinafores before their eyes.  Each was white as
snow, smooth as satin, and all along the hem there shone a child-name
curiously woven in gold or silver thread.  But the charm of these
"pinnies," as the children called them, was that they would never tear,
get soiled, or wear out, but always remain as white and smooth and new
as when first made, for they were woven of fairy flax.  Another fine
thing was that whoever wore one would grow gentle and good, for the
friendly little weavers and spinners had put so much love and good-will
into their work that it got into the pinafores and would never come
out, but shone in the golden border, and acted like a charm on the
childish hearts the aprons covered.

Very happy were the little people as they saw the pile grow higher and
higher, for they knew what they were doing, and wondered who would wear
each one.

"Now," said the god-mother, "which of my good children shall go to the
city and sell our pinnies?"

"Send Babie, she is the best and has worked harder than all the rest,"
answered the children, and little Barbara quite blushed to be so
praised.

"Yes, she shall go," said the god-mother, as she began to lay the
aprons in a little old-fashioned basket.

As soon as the children saw it, they gathered about it like a swarm of
bees, exclaiming,--

"See! see! it is Red Riding-Hood's little basket in which she carried
the pot of butter.  Dear grandma, where did you get it?"

"The excellent old lady whom the wolf ate up was a friend of mine, and
after that sad affair I kept it to remember her by, my dears.  It is an
immortal basket, and all children love it, long to peep into it, and
would give much to own it."

"What am I to do?" asked Babie, as the god-mother hung the basket on
her arm.

"Go to the Royal Park, my dear, where all the young lords and ladies
walk; stand by the great fountain, and when any children ask about the
basket, tell them they may put in their hands and take what they find
for a silver penny.  They will gladly pay it, but each must kiss the
penny and give it with a kind word, a friendly wish, before they take
the pinnies.  When all are sold, lay the silver pennies in the
sunshine, and whatever happens, be sure that it is what I wish.  Go,
now, and tell no one where you come from nor why you sell your wares."

Then Babie put on her little red cloak, took the basket on her arm, and
went away toward the city, while her playmates called after her,--

"Good luck! good-by!  Come home soon and tell us all about it!"

When she came to the great gate, she began to fear she could not get
in, for, though she had often peeped between the bars and longed to
play with the pretty children, the guard had always driven her away,
saying it was no place for her.  Now, however, when she came up, the
tall sentinel was so busy looking at her basket that he only stood
smiling to himself, as if some pleasant recollection was coming back to
him, and said slowly,--

"Upon my word, I think I must be asleep and dreaming, for there's
little Red Riding-Hood come again.  The wolf is round the corner, I
dare say, Run in, my dear, run in before he comes; and I'll give the
cowardly fellow the beating I've owed him ever since I was a boy."

Babie laughed, and slipped through the gate so quickly that the guard
rubbed his eyes, looked about him, and said,--

"Yes, yes, I thought I was asleep.  Very odd that I should dream of the
old fairy-tale I haven't read this twenty years."

In a green nook near the great fountain, Babie placed herself, looking
like a pretty picture with her smiling face, bright eyes, and curly
hair blowing in the wind.  Presently little Princess Bess came running
by to hide from her maid, of whom she was sadly tired.  When she saw
Babie, she forgot every thing else, and cried out,--

"O the pretty basket!  I must have it.  Will you sell it, little girl?"

"No, my lady, for it isn't mine; but if you like to pay a silver penny,
you may put in your hand and take what you find."

"Will it be the little pot of butter?" said the Princess, as she pulled
out her purse.

"A much more useful and wonderful thing than that, my lady.  Something
that will never spoil nor wear out, but keep you always good and happy
while you wear it," answered Babie.

"That's splendid!  Take the penny, lift the lid, and let me see," cried
Bess.

"First kiss it, with a kind word, a friendly wish, please, my lady; for
these are fairy wares, and can be had in no other way," said Babie.

Princess Bess tossed her head at this, but she wanted the fairy gift,
so she kissed the silver penny said the word, and wished the wish; then
in went her hand and out came the white pinafore, with a golden Bess
shining all along the hem, and little crowns embroidered on the sleeves.

"O the pretty thing!  Put it on, put it on before Primmins comes, else
she won't let me wear it," cried the princess, throwing her hat and
cloak on the grass, and hurrying on the pinafore.

She clapped her hands and danced about as if bewitched, for on each
corner of the apron hung a tiny silver bell, which rang such a merry
peal it made one dance and sing to hear it.  Suddenly she stood quite
still, while a soft look came into her face, as all the pride and
wilfulness faded away.  She touched the smooth, white pinafore, looked
down at the golden name, listened to the fairy bells, and in that
little pause seemed to become another child; for presently she put her
arms round Babie's neck and kissed her, quite forgetting that one was a
king's daughter and the other a beggar child.

"Dear little girl, thank you very much for my lovely pinny.  Wait here
till I call my playmates, that they too may buy your fairy wares."

Away she ran, and was soon back again with a troop of children so gayly
dressed they looked like a flock of butterflies.  The maids came with
them, and all crowded about the wonderful basket, pushing and
screaming, for these fine children had not fine manners.  Babie was
rather frightened, but Bess stood by her and rang her little bells, so
that all stopped to listen.  One by one each paid the penny, with the
friendly word and wish, and then drew out the magic pinafore, which
always showed the right name.  The maids were so much interested when
they learned that these aprons made their wearers good, that they
gladly put them on; for, having gold and silver woven in them, the fine
linen was not thought too plain for such noble little people to wear.

How they all changed as the pinnies went on!  No more screaming,
pushing, or fretting; only smiling faces, gentle voices, and the blithe
ringing of the fairy bells.  The poor maids almost cried for joy, they
were so tired of running after naughty children; and every thing looked
so gay that people stopped to peep at the pretty group in the Royal
Park.

When the last apron was sold, Babie told them that something strange
was going to happen, and they might see it if they liked.  So they made
a wide ring round a sunny spot where she had laid the hundred silver
pennies.  Presently from each coin sprang a little pair of wings; on
one the kind word, on the other the friendly wish that had been uttered
over them, and, lifted by their magic, the pennies rose into the air
like a flock of birds, and flew away over the tree-tops, shining as
they went.

All the children were so eager to see where they would alight that they
ran after.  No one stumbled, no one fell, though they followed through
crowded streets and down among strange places where they had never been
before.  All the maids ran after the children, and the stately papas
and mammas followed the maids, quite distracted by the strange behavior
of their children and servants.  A curious sight it was, and the city
was amazed, but the pennies flew on till they came to a bleak and
barren spot, where many poor children tried to play in the few pale
rays of sunshine that crept between the tall roofs that stood so
thickly crowded on every side.  Here the pennies folded their wings and
fell like a silver shower, to be welcomed by cries of joy and wonder by
the ragged children.

The poor mothers and fathers left their work to go and see the sight,
and were as much amazed to find a crowd of fine people as the fine
people were to see them; for, though they had heard of each other, they
had never met, and did not know how sad was the contrast between them.

No one knew what to do at first, it was all so strange and new.  But
the magic that had got into the pinafores began to work, and soon
Princess Bess was seen emptying her little purse among the poor
children.  The other boys and girls began at once to do the same, then
the fine ladies felt their hearts grow pitiful, and they looked kindly
at the poor, sad-faced women as they spoke friendly words and promised
help.  At sight of this, the lords and gentlemen were ashamed to be
outdone by their wives children, and the heavy purses came out when the
little ones failed, till all about the dreary place there was played a
beautiful new game called "give away."

No one ever knew who did it, but, as the city clock struck noon, all
the bells in all the steeples began to ring, and the tune they played
was the same blithe one the little bells had chimed.  Other wonders
happened, for as the clear peal went sounding through the air the sun
came glancing through all manner of chinks never seen before, and shone
warm and bright upon the rich and poor standing together like one
family.  The third wonder was that when the fine folk came to put their
purses back into their pockets, they were fuller than before, because
for every bit of money given away there were two in its place, shining
brighter than any gold, and marked with a little cross.

This was the beginning, but it would take a long time to tell all the
good done by the fairy pinafores.  Nobody guessed they were at the
bottom of the changes which came about, but people thought some
blessing had befallen the children, so blooming, good, and gay did they
become.  Busied with their own affairs, the older people would have
forgotten the poor folk and the promises made them, if the children had
not reminded them.  Some little girl who wore a fairy pinny would climb
into her mother's lap and say,--

"Mamma, I'm tired of my dolls; I want to make some clothes for the
ragged children we saw the day I bought my pretty pinafore.  Will you
show me how?"

Then the mother would kiss the little face she loved so well, and give
the child her wish, finding much happiness in seeing the comfortable
suits go on, and receiving the thanks of less fortunate women; for
motherly hearts are the same under rags and silk.  The boys, though
small fellows, were never tired of playing the new game with silver
pennies, and made their fathers play with them, till many men who began
it to please the little lads went on for the love of charity.

Princess Bess ordered the Park gates to stand open for the poor as well
as the rich, and soon one could hardly tell the difference; for the
poor children were comfortably clothed, and the foolish mammas, finding
their little sons and daughters grew rosy strong, and happy in the
plain pinafores, grew wiser, and left off fretting them with useless
finery, finding that their own innocent gayety and beauty were their
sweetest ornaments, and learning that the good old fashion of
simplicity was the best for all.

Things were prospering in this way when news of the fairy pinafores
reached the old king.  He seldom troubled himself about matters, but
when he read accounts of the kind things his people were doing, he was
so much interested that he forgot his nap, and the queen counted her
stitches all amiss while listening.  Cinderella and the Prince heard of
it also, and felt quite reproached that they had forgotten every one
but themselves.  It was talked of at court, and everybody wished
pinafores for their children; but the unknown child with the famous
basket had vanished no one knew whither.

At last, after searching through the city, a sentinel was found who
remembered seeing Babie come in from the country.  When the king heard
this, he ordered his carriage, the old queen put by her work to go with
him, and the Prince with Cinderella got into the famous pumpkin coach,
for they too wished to see the wonderful child.

Away they drove, followed by their lords and ladies, through the wood,
and there beyond they saw the Children's Home.  Full of curiosity, yet
fearing to alarm the dwellers in that quiet place, every one alighted
and went softly toward the house.

Every thing was so still and pleasant, all were charmed, and felt as if
a spell were falling on them.  When the court gentlemen heard the song
of the birds overhead, they felt ashamed of the foolish speeches they
were making; when the fine ladies saw the flowers blooming in the
little gardens, their gay dresses seemed less beautiful; the old king
and queen felt quite young and lively all at once, and Cinderella and
her Prince longed for another race, such as they had when the glass
slipper was lost.

Presently they found a little lad reading in the sun, and of him the
king asked many questions.  The child, forgetting that the god-mother
wished to remain unknown, told all she had done, and bade them look in
at the window, and see if what he said was not true.  Every one peeped,
and there they saw the children sitting at the looms and wheels
motionless; for the dear old lady had fallen fast asleep, and no one
stirred lest they should wake her Like a room full of breathing,
smiling images they sat, and, as the heads came at the windows, all
looked up and whispered, "Hush!" like a soft wind sighing through the
place.

Cinderella, who dearly loved her god-mother, felt reproached that she
had done so little while the good old lady had done so much, and,
stepping in, she began to stitch away on one of the new set of
pinafores which they were making.  At that, the lively young Prince
skipped in after her, and, whisking a small boy out of his seat before
a loom, began to weave with all his might; for, as the old lady said,--

  "A good will
  Giveth skill."


"I'll not be outdone by those children!" cried the king, and began
briskly winding the thread which hung on blind Nanny's outstretched
hands.

"Neither will I, my dear!" returned the queen, and whipping on her
spectacles she cut out a pinafore on the spot.

After that, of course, every one else came rushing in, and soon all the
wheels buzzed, looms jangled, needles flew, and scissors snipped, while
the children stood by smiling at the sight of the fine folks working as
if for their lives.

The noise woke the god-mother, who understood the matter at once, and
was glad to see things in such good train.  As she wished to say a
word, she gave a smart tap with her staff, and every one stopped but
the king, who was so busy winding his thread that he kept on till the
skein was done, when he patted Nanny on the head, saying, in such a
brisk tone his people hardly knew him for the lazy old king,--

"There, I feel better for that.  We'll do another presently, my fine
little girl."  Then he nodded to the god-mother with twinkling eyes,
for being a fairy he respected her very much.  She nodded back at him,
and said gravely,--

"Your majesty is very welcome, and I am glad you have waked up at last.
Don't fall asleep again, but go and make homes for all your poor, so
that when you do fall asleep for the last time you will leave your son
as happy a kingdom as you have found here.  And you, my dear
Cinderella, remember this: let your children be children while they
may, and be sure they all wear pinafores."



VI.

MAMMA'S PLOT.

"It's the meanest thing I ever heard of, and I won't bear it!" cried
Kitty, sitting down on her half-packed trunk, with a most rebellious
expression.

"You must, my dear: it is the rule of the school, and you must submit.
I'm very sorry, for I expected great comfort and pleasure from your
little letters; but if madam has to read and correct them all, of
course they will be compositions, and not particularly interesting,"
said mamma, with a sigh, as she folded up the small garments as
tenderly as if her little girl had been inside of them.

"I didn't mind much about it when I read the rules, but now that I'm
really going it seems like a prison; and I shall be just wild to tell
you every thing.  How can I, if that old lady has got to see what I
write?  I know I shan't like the food, and I can't ask you to send me
any goodies without her knowing it.  If I'm homesick, I shall want to
tell you, and of course there will be lots of funny things you'd enjoy,
but for this disgusting rule.  I do declare I won't go!" and Kitty cast
her new boots sternly on the floor.

"Yes, you will, Puss, because papa and I want you to.  This is an
excellent school; old-fashioned in some things, and I like it for that,
though this rule is not a wise one, I fancy.  You must do the best you
can, and perhaps madam won't be very particular about what you write to
me, if you are a good child."

"I know she will.  I saw fussiness in her face.  She's sure to be
strict and prim, and I shall be so miserable."  Here Kitty began to cry
over her woes.

It was a habit of hers to have a great many troubles, and to be very
much afflicted about trifles, for she had not a real trial in the world
except her own fidgety little self.  As she sat on her trunk, with all
her possessions scattered about her, and one great tear on the end of
her nose (she couldn't squeeze out another to save her life), she was a
very pathetic object; and mamma felt so tender about losing her that
she could not make light of this grief, as she often did when Kitty
wept over some trifle.

All of a sudden a bright idea came into her head, for mothers' wits are
usually sharper than other people's where their children are concerned.
Up she got, and hurrying to her desk pulled out a box of many-colored
note-paper, with envelopes to match, saying, as she showed them, with a
smile,--

"I've thought of a nice plan, a sort of joke between us.  Come here,
and I'll tell you about it."

So Kitty wiped away her one tear, and ran to hear the new plan, full of
curiosity and interest; for pretty papers are always attractive, and
mamma looked as if the joke was going to be a funny one.

"I will fill your little portfolio with these, and for each color we
will have a different meaning, which I shall understand.  Let me see.
When you are well and happy, use this pink paper; when you are
home-sick, take the blue; if you want goodies, use the green; and if
you don't feel well, take the violet.  How do you like the idea, Puss?"

"It's regularly splendid!  I do love to have secrets, and this will be
such a nice one, all private between our two selves.  Mamma, you are a
perfect dear, and I'll send you a letter every week.  It will be such
fun to write it all prim and proper, and let madam see it, and then
have it tell you all about me by the color."

And Kitty danced about the room till the little blue bow on the top of
her head stood straight up as if with excitement.

So the portfolio was fitted out in great style, and Kitty felt as proud
as you please; for other girls didn't have colored note-papers, much
less private jokes with their mammas.  The new arrangement made her
quite willing to go; and all that day she kept looking at her mother
with twinkling eyes, and the last thing she said, as the carriage drove
away, was,--

"Don't forget what pink, blue, green, and violet means, mamma."

The first week was a hard one, for every thing was new, and the rules
were rather strict.  Kitty did her best for the honor of her family,
but sometimes her woes did seem heavier than she could bear, especially
French verbs, and getting up very early.

So when Saturday came, and the home letters were to be written, she
longed to pour out her full heart to dear mamma, but did not dare to do
it, for madam went about among the girls, suggesting, correcting, and
overseeing their productions as if they were nothing but compositions.

"Remember, my dears, these three rules when you are writing letters.
Always put in something about your heavenly Father, the progress of
your studies, and your duty to parents and teachers.  None of these
important points have been touched upon in your epistle, Miss
Catherine; therefore, as it is much blotted, and badly spelled, I
desire you to rewrite it, making these additions.  Here is an excellent
sample of the proper style;" and madam laid a model letter before poor
Kitty, who muttered to herself, as she read it,--

"I might as well write a sermon, and done with it.  Papa will laugh,
and mamma won't get one bit of news from it.  I'll let her know how
unhappy I am any way."

So Kitty took out her bluest paper (the homesick color, you know), and
produced the following letter, which madam approved and sent:--


MY DEAR MAMMA,--With every sentiment which affection can suggest, I
hasten to inform you that I am well, and trust you also and my honored
father are enjoying that best of blessings, robust health.

I am endeavoring to prove by diligence and good conduct my gratitude
for the advantages now offered me, and trust that my progress may be a
source of satisfaction to my parents and teachers, as well as
profitable to myself in years to come.

Madam is most kind to me, and my schoolmates are agreeable and friendly
young ladies.  That I may merit their affection and respect is the
sincere wish of my heart, for friendship adds a charm to life, and
strengthens the most amiable sentiments of the youthful mind.

As Monday is your birthday, please accept this little picture as a
token of my love, with best wishes for many happy returns of the day.
May our heavenly Father, in his infinite goodness, long preserve you to
us, and, when this earthly pilgrimage is over, may your landing be on
that happy shore where naught but bliss can meet you, and where your
virtues will receive the recompense which they deserve.

I desire much to see you, but do not repine, since you deem it best to
send me from you for a time.  Our meeting will be the more delightful
for this separation, and time soon flies when profitably employed.

Please give my love to all, especially my papa, and believe me, dear
mamma,

Your ever dutiful and affectionate daughter,

CATHERINE AUGUSTA MURRY.


"It's perfectly awful," said Kitty to herself, as she read it over; and
so it was, but madam was an old fashioned lady, and had been brought up
to honor her parents in the old-fashioned way.  Letters like that were
written in her youth, and she saw no occasion to change the style for
what she called the modern slipshod mixture of gossip and slang.

The good lady never thought there might be a middle course, and that it
was a better way to teach composition to let the children write their
own natural little letters, with hints as to spelling, grammar, and
other necessary matters, than to make them copy the Grandisonian style
of her own youth.

Poor Kitty rebelled sadly, but submitted, and found her only comfort in
the thought that mamma would find something in the letter besides what
this disrespectful little person called "madam's old rubbish."

Mamma did find it, and sent back such a tender reply that Kitty's heart
reproached her for causing so much anxiety, when things were not very
bad after one got used to them.

So the next letter was a cheerful pink one, and though the contents
were not a bit more interesting than the first one it gave great
satisfaction.

A green one went next, for as Kitty's spirits improved she felt the
need of a few home goodies to sweeten her studies and enliven her play
hours.  As only sensible dainties came, and madam was propitiated by a
particularly delicate cake, presented with all due respect, she made no
objection to an occasional box from home.

Kitty therefore found herself a great favorite, and all the girls were
very fond of her, especially when the "sweeties" arrived.

"I think your mother is perfectly splendid to send such nice things
without your saying a word.  I have to tease mine when I go home on a
visit, and she always forgets, and I can't remind her because the
griffin sees my letters, and cuts out all requests for food, 'as if you
were not properly supplied with the best in the market.'"

Fanny said that,--the wag and romp of the school,--and as she imitated
the "griffin," as she had naughtily named madam, there was a general
giggle, in which Kitty was glad to join, for she did get goodies
without "saying a word," and the idea tickled her immensely.

But she told her secret to no one, and, finding that the pink notes
made mamma very happy, she tried not to think of her "woes" when she
sat down to write.  This little bit of self-denial was its own reward;
for, as the woes only existed in her own imagination, when she
resolutely stopped thinking of them they vanished.

Plenty of work and play, young society, and the affectionate desire to
please her mother did for Kitty just what mamma had hoped.  At home she
was too much petted and pitied, as the youngest is apt to be; and so
she had the "fidgets," which are to little people what "nerves" are to
the elders.  Now she had no time to dawdle and bemoan herself: if she
did, other girls went to the head of the class, led the games, and got
the best marks.

So Kitty bestirred herself, and in three months was quite another
child.  Madam praised her, the girls loved her, mamma was both pleased
and proud, and papa quite decided that Puss should have a little gold
watch on her next birthday.

The pink paper was soon used up, since there was no call for any of the
other colors, except an occasional green sheet; and a new stock was
gladly sent by mamma, who was quite satisfied with the success of her
little plot.

But mamma had been rather troubled about one thing, and that was the
breaking of the rule.  It had seemed a foolish one to her, and she had
taught Kitty how to escape it.  That was a bad example, and so she
wrote to madam and "'fessed," like an honest mamma as she was.

She did it so prettily and penitently that old madam was not angry;
indeed, when the matter was sensibly and respectfully put before her,
she saw the justice of it, forgave the little plot, and amazed her
pupils by gradually omitting to watch over them as they wrote.

When saucy Fanny spoke of it, she answered that she trusted them to
write only what was true and modest, and, finding that the times had
changed a little since her young days, she meant to relax some of her
rules.

That pleased the girls, and they proved their gratitude by honorably
forbearing to put into their letters any thing disrespectful toward the
dear old griffin.  Some of the most affectionate freely took their
letters to her for correction; and when she had read a few, and laughed
over them till her spectacles were dim, she quite depended on seeing
them, and found what used to be a dull task now changed to a very
pleasant amusement.

As a contrast to the model letter already inserted (and which I beg
leave to state was really written from school by a little girl of
twelve), I will only add one which Kitty wrote after the old rule was
set aside:--


MY DEAR LITTLE MAMMA,--Now that I can tell you every thing, I will
answer the questions you asked in your last, and please, please don't
think I am a vain thing because I seem to praise myself.  It is truly
what people say and do, and I never should have told if you had not
asked me.

You want to know if I am liked.  Why, mamma, I'm a leading girl.
Others fight to walk with me, and bribe me with their nice things to
sit by them.  I'm at the head most of the time, and try not to be grand
about it; so I help the others, and am as kind and generous as I know
how to be.

Madam is just as dear and clever as she can be, and I'm actually fond
of her.  Don't tell, but I fancy I'm her favorite, for she lets me do
ever so many things that she once forbid, and isn't half so strict as
she was.

I'm truly glad I came, for I do get on, and haven't had a woe this ever
so long.  Isn't that nice?  I'm homesick sometimes, and look at my blue
paper, but I won't use it; so I go and have a good run, or chatter
French with madam, and get cheered up before I write.

I miss you most at night, mamma dear, for then I have no one to tell my
goods and bads to, and so get right.  But not having you, I remember
what you told me, that I always have God, and to him I open my heart as
I never did before Prayers mean something to me now, and I say them so
earnestly that sometimes I cry, and that makes me feel so fresh and
strong and ready to go on again.

I do try to be good, and don't ask for any reward but to see you look
proud and pleased when I come home.  I'd give any thing if I could hug
you now and then, because you don't mind if I tumble your collar: madam
does, and that spoils the fun of it.  Kissing is a kind of inspiration,
you know; and one doesn't stop to think of clothes when one is so full
of love, it must spill over in kisses.

That sounds sentimental, but I'm not going to take it out, because
you'll understand what I mean, and won't laugh.  That's the comfort of
private letters, isn't it?

Now, good-by, my dearest mother.  Lots of love to papa, and do both
write soon to your own little PUSS.


Just as Kitty was folding it up, madam came by, and quite mechanically
held out her hand for it, as she used to do.

Kitty caught it back, and then blushed and looked distressed; for madam
said gravely, as she remembered the new rule,--

"I beg your pardon, I forgot.  Seal it up, my dear; I won't ask to read
your secrets any more."

Kitty saw that she was hurt, and with an impulsive gesture thrust the
letter into madam's hand, saying bravely, though she quaked a little at
some of the things she had written,--

"Please read it.  There are no secrets in it, only foolish things that
mamma likes to know because they are about me.  You'll think I'm a vain
goose, but I'd rather you did that than think I told tales, or did any
thing sly."

Thus urged, madam read the letter; and Kitty stood by, with cheeks much
pinker than the paper, expecting a lecture when the last word came.
But, to her great amazement, the old lady kissed her as she gave it
back, and said, in a voice as gentle as if speaking to one of her own
little daughters, lost long ago,--

"It is a good letter, my dear, and a true one.  Give my regards to your
mamma, and tell her that your suspicion about my favorite is quite
correct."



VII.

KATE'S CHOICE.

"Well, what do you think of her?"

"I think she's a perfect dear, and not a bit stuck up with all her
money."

"A real little lady, and ever so pretty."

"She kissed me lots, and don't tell me to run away, so I love her."

The group of brothers and sisters standing round the fire laughed as
little May finished the chorus of praise with these crowning virtues.

Tall Alf asked the question, and seemed satisfied with the general
approval of the new cousin just come from England to live with them.
They had often heard of Kate, and rather prided themselves on the fact
that she lived in a fine house, was very rich, and sent them charming
presents.  Now pity was added to the pride, for Kate was an orphan, and
all her money could not buy back the parents she had lost.  They had
watched impatiently for her arrival, had welcomed her cordially, and
after a day spent in trying to make her feel at home they were
comparing notes in the twilight, while Kate was having a quiet talk
with mamma.

"I hope she will choose to live with us.  You know she can go to any of
the uncles she likes best," said Alf.

"We are nearer her age than any of the other cousins, and papa is the
oldest uncle, so I guess she will," added Milly, the fourteen-year-old
daughter of the house.

"She said she liked America," said quiet Frank.

"Wonder if she will give us a lot of her money?" put in practical Fred,
who was always in debt.

"Stop that!" commanded Alf.  "Mind now, if you ever ask her for a penny
I'll shake you out of your jacket."

"Hush! she's coming," cried Milly, and a dead silence followed the
lively chatter.

A fresh-faced bright-eyed girl of fifteen came quietly in, glanced at
the group on the rug, and paused as if doubtful whether she was wanted.

"Come on!" said Fred, encouragingly.

"Shall I be in the way?"

"Oh! dear, no, we were only talking," answered Milly, drawing her
cousin nearer with an arm about her waist.

"It sounded like something pleasant," said Kate, not exactly knowing
what to say.

"We were talking about you," began little May, when a poke from Frank
made her stop to ask, "What's that for?  We were talking about Kate,
and we all said we liked her, so it's no matter if I do tell."

"You are very kind," and Kate looked so pleased that the children
forgave May's awkward frankness.

"Yes, and we hoped you'd like us and stay with us," said Alf, in the
lofty and polite manner which he thought became the young lord of the
house.

"I am going to try all the uncles in turn, and then decide; papa wished
it," answered Kate, with a sudden tremble of the lips, for her father
was the only parent she could remember, and had been unusually dear for
that reason.

"Can you play billiards?" asked Fred, who had a horror of seeing girls
cry.

"Yes, and I'll teach you."

"You had a pony-carriage at your house, didn't you?" added Frank, eager
to help on the good work.

"At grandma's,--I had no other home, you know," answered Kate.

"What shall you buy first with your money?" asked May, who _would_ ask
improper questions.

"I'd buy a grandma if I could," and Kate both smiled and sighed.

"How funny!  We've got one somewhere, but we don't care much about
her," continued May, with the inconvenient candor of a child.

"Have you?  Where is she?" and Kate turned quickly, looking full of
interest.

"Papa's mother is very old, and lives ever so far away in the country,
so of course we don't see much of her," explained Alf.

"But papa writes sometimes, and mamma sends her things every Christmas.
We don't remember her much, because we never saw her but once, ever so
long ago; but we do care for her, and May mustn't say such rude
things," said Milly.

"I shall go and see her.  I can't get on without a grandmother," and
Kate smiled so brightly that the lads thought her prettier than ever.
"Tell me more about her.  Is she a dear old lady?"

"Don't know.  She is lame, and lives in the old house, and has a maid
named Dolly, and--that's all I can tell you about her," and Milly
looked a little vexed that she could say no more on the subject that
seemed to interest her cousin so much.

Kate looked surprised, but said nothing, and stood looking at the fire
as if turning the matter over in her mind, and trying to answer the
question she was too polite to ask,--how could they live without a
grandmother?  Here the tea-bell rang, and the flock ran laughing
downstairs; but, though she said no more, Kate remembered that
conversation, and laid a plan in her resolute little mind which she
carried out when the time came.

According to her father's wish she lived for a while in the family of
each of the four uncles before she decided with which she would make
her home.  All were anxious to have her, one because of her money,
another because her great-grandfather had been a lord, a third hoped to
secure her for his son, while the fourth and best family loved her for
herself alone.  They were worthy people, as the world goes,--busy,
ambitious, and prosperous; and every one, old and young, was fond of
bright, pretty, generous Kate.  Each family was anxious to keep her, a
little jealous of the rest, and very eager to know which she would
choose.

But Kate surprised them all by saying decidedly when the time came,--

"I must see grandma before I choose.  Perhaps I ought to have visited
her first, as she is the oldest.  I think papa would wish me to do it.
At any rate, I want to pay my duty to her before I settle anywhere, so
please let me go."

Some of the young cousins laughed at the idea, and her old-fashioned,
respectful way of putting it, which contrasted strongly with their
free-and-easy American speech.  The uncles were surprised, but agreed
to humor her whim, and Uncle George, the eldest, said softly,--

"I ought to have remembered that poor Anna was mother's only daughter,
and the old lady would naturally love to see the girl.  But, my dear,
it will be desperately dull.  Only two old women and a quiet country
town.  No fun, no company, you won't stay long."

"I shall not mind the dulness if grandma likes to have me there.  I
lived very quietly in England, and was never tired of it.  Nursey can
take care of me, and I think the sight of me will do the dear old lady
good, because they tell me I am like mamma."

Something in the earnest young face reminded Uncle George of the sister
he had almost forgotten, and recalled his own youth so pleasantly that
he said, with a caress of the curly head beside him,--

"So it would, I'm sure of it, and I've a great mind to go with you and
'pay my duty' to mother, as you prettily express it."

"Oh, no, please don't, sir; I want to surprise her, and have her all to
myself for a little while.  Would you mind if I went quite alone with
Nursey?  You can come later."

"Not a bit; you shall do as you like, and make sunshine for the old
lady as you have for us.  I haven't seen her for a year, but I know she
is well and comfortable, and Dolly guards her like a dragon.  Give her
my love, Kitty, and tell her I send her something she will value a
hundred times more than the very best tea, the finest cap, or the
handsomest tabby that ever purred."

So, in spite of the lamentations of her cousins, Kate went gayly away
to find the grandma whom no one else seemed to value as she did.

You see, grandpa had been a farmer, and lived contentedly on the old
place until he died; but his four sons wanted to be something better,
so they went away one after the other to make their way in the world.
All worked hard, got rich, lived splendidly, and forgot as far as
possible the old life and the dull old place they came from.  They were
good sons in their way, and had each offered his mother a home with him
if she cared to come.  But grandma clung to the old home, the simple
ways, and quiet life, and, thanking them gratefully, she had remained
in the big farm-house, empty, lonely, and plain though it was, compared
to the fine homes of her sons.

Little by little the busy men forgot the quiet, uncomplaining old
mother, who spent her years thinking of them, longing to see and know
their children, hoping they would one day remember how she loved them
all, and how solitary her life must be.

Now and then they wrote or paid her a hasty visit, and all sent gifts
of far less value to her than one loving look, one hour of dutiful,
affectionate companionship.

"If you ever want me, send and I'll come.  Or, if you ever need a home,
remember the old place is here always open, and you are always
welcome," the good old lady said.  But they never seemed to need her,
and so seldom came that the old place evidently had no charm for them.

It was hard, but the sweet old woman bore it patiently, and lived her
lonely life quietly and usefully, with her faithful maid Dolly to serve
and love and support her.

Kate's mother, her one daughter, had married young, gone to England,
and, dying early, had left the child to its father and his family.
Among them little Kate had grown up, knowing scarcely any thing of her
American relations until she was left an orphan and went back to her
mother's people.  She had been the pet of her English grandmother, and,
finding all the aunts busy, fashionable women, had longed for the
tender fostering she had known, and now felt as if only grandmothers
could give.

With a flutter of hope and expectation, she approached the old house
after the long journey was over.  Leaving the luggage at the inn, and
accompanied by faithful Nurse, Kate went up the village street, and,
pausing at the gate, looked at the home where her mother had been born.

A large, old-fashioned farm-house, with a hospitable porch and tall
trees in front, an orchard behind, and a capital hill for blackberries
in summer, and coasting in winter, close by.  All the upper windows
were curtained, and made the house look as if it was half-asleep.  At
one of the lower windows sat a portly puss, blinking in the sun, and at
the other appeared a cap, a regular grandmotherly old cap, with a
little black bow perked up behind.  Something in the lonely look of the
house and the pensive droop of that cap made Katy hurry up the walk and
tap eagerly at the antique knocker.  A brisk little old woman peered
out, as if startled at the sound, and Kate asked, smiling, "Does Madam
Coverley live here?"

"She does, dear.  Walk right in," and throwing wide the door, the maid
trotted down a long, wide hall, and announced in a low tone to her
mistress,--

"A nice, pretty little girl wants to see you, mum."

"I shall love to see a young face.  Who is it, Dolly?" asked a pleasant
voice.

"Don't know, mum."

"Grandma must guess," and Kate went straight up to the old lady with
both hands out, for the first sight of that sweet old face won her
heart.

Lifting her spectacles, grandma looked silently a minute, then opened
her arms without a word, and in the long embrace that followed Kate
felt assured that she was welcome to the home she wanted.

"So like my Anna!  And this is her little girl?  God bless you, my
darling!  So good to come and see me!" said the old lady when she could
speak.

"Why, grandma, I couldn't get on without you, and as soon as I knew
where to find you I was in a fidget to be off; but had to do my other
visits first, because the uncles had planned it so.  This is Dolly, I
am sure, and that is my good nurse.  Go and get my things, please,
Nursey.  I shall stay here until grandma sends me away."

"That will never be, deary.  Now tell me every thing.  It is like an
angel coming to see me all of a sudden.  Sit close, and let me feel
sure it isn't one of the dreams I make to cheer myself when I'm
lonesome."

Kate sat on a little stool at grandma's feet, and, leaning on her knee,
told all her little story, while the old lady fed her hungry eyes with
the sight of the fresh young face, listened to the music of a loving
voice, and felt the happy certainty that some one had remembered her,
as she longed to be remembered.

Such a happy day as Kate spent talking and listening, looking at her
new home, which she found delightful, and being petted by the two old
women, who would hardly let Nursey do any thing for her.  Kate's quick
eyes read the truth of grandma's lonely life very soon; her warm heart
was full of tender pity, and she resolved to devote herself to making
the happiness of the dear old lady's few remaining years, for at eighty
one should have the prop of loving children, if ever.

To Dolly and madam it really did seem as if an angel had come, a
singing, smiling, chattering sprite, who danced all over the old house,
making blithe echoes in the silent room, and brightening every corner
she entered.

Kate opened all the shutters and let in the sun, saying she must see
which room she liked best before she settled.  She played on the old
piano, that wheezed and jangled, all out of tune; but no one minded,
for the girlish voice was as sweet as a lark's.  She invaded Dolly's
sacred kitchen, and messed to her heart's content, delighting the old
soul by praises of her skill, and petitions to be taught all she knew.
She pranced to and fro in the long hall, and got acquainted with the
lives of painted ancestors hanging there in big wigs or short-waisted
gowns.  She took possession of grandma's little parlor, and made it so
cosey the old lady felt as if she was bewitched, for cushioned
arm-chairs, fur foot-stools, soft rugs, and delicate warm shawls
appeared like magic.  Flowers bloomed in the deep, sunny window-seats,
pictures of lovely places seemed to break out on the oaken walls, a
dainty work-basket took its place near grandma's quaint one, and, best
of all, the little chair beside her own was seldom empty now.

The first thing in the morning a kiss waked her, and the beloved voice
gave her a gay "Good-morning, grandma dear!"  All day Anna's child
hovered about her with willing hands and feet to serve her, loving
heart to return her love, and the tender reverence which is the
beautiful tribute the young should pay the old.  In the twilight, the
bright head always was at her knees; and, in either listening to the
stories of the past or making lively plans for the future, Kate whiled
away the time that used to be so sad.

Kate never found it lonely, seldom wished for other society, and grew
every day more certain that here she could find the cherishing she
needed, and do the good she hoped.

Dolly and Nurse got on capitally; each tried which could sing "Little
Missy's" praises loudest, and spoil her quickest by unquestioning
obedience to every whim or wish.  A happy family, and the dull November
days went by so fast that Christmas was at hand before they knew it.

All the uncles had written to ask Kate to pass the holidays with them,
feeling sure she must be longing for a change.  But she had refused
them all, saying she should stay with grandma, who could not go
anywhere to join other people's merry-makings, and must have one of her
own at home.  The uncles urged, the aunts advised, and the cousins
teased; but Kate denied them all, yet offended no one, for she was
inspired by a grand idea, and carried it out with help from Dolly and
Nurse, unsuspected by grandma.

"We are going to have a little Christmas fun up here among ourselves,
and you mustn't know about it until we are ready.  So just sit all
cosey in your corner, and let me riot about as I like.  I know you
won't mind, and I think you'll say it is splendid when I've carried out
my plan," said Kate, when the old lady wondered what she was thinking
about so deeply, with her brows knit and her lips smiling.

"Very well, dear, do any thing you like, and I shall enjoy it, only
don't get tired, or try to do too much," and with that grandma became
deaf and blind to the mysteries that went on about her.

She was lame, and seldom left her own rooms; so Kate, with her devoted
helpers, turned the house topsy-turvy, trimmed up hall and parlors and
great dining-room with shining holly and evergreen, laid fires ready
for kindling on the hearths that had been cold for years, and had beds
made up all over the house.

What went on in the kitchen, only Dolly could tell; but such delicious
odors as stole out made grandma sniff the air, and think of merry
Christmas revels long ago.  Up in her own room Kate wrote lots of
letters, and sent orders to the city that made Nursey hold up her
hands.  More letters came in reply, and Kate had a rapture over every
one.  Big bundles were left by the express, who came so often that the
gates were opened and the lawn soon full of sleigh-tracks.  The shops
in the village were ravaged by Mistress Kate, who laid in stores of gay
ribbon, toys, nuts, and all manner of queer things.

"I really think she's lost her mind," said the post-master as she flew
out of the office one day with a handful of letters.

"Pretty creter!  I wouldn't say a word against her, not for a mint of
money.  She's so good to old Mrs. Coverley," answered his fat wife,
smiling as she watched Kate ride up the village street on an ox-sled.

If grandma had thought the girl out of her wits, no one could have
blamed her, for on Christmas day she really did behave in the most
singular manner.

"You are going to church with me this morning, grandma.  It's all
arranged.  A close carriage is coming for us, the sleighing is lovely,
the church all trimmed up, and I must have you see it.  I shall wrap
you in fur, and we will go and say our prayers together, like good
girls, won't we?" said Kate, who was in a queer flutter, while her eyes
shone, her lips were all smiles, and her feet kept dancing in spite of
her.

"Anywhere you like, my darling.  I'd start for Australia to-morrow, if
you wanted me to go with you," answered grandma, who obeyed Kate in all
things, and seemed to think she could do no wrong.

So they went to church, and grandma did enjoy it; for she had many
blessings to thank God for, chief among them the treasure of a dutiful,
loving child.  Kate tried to keep herself quiet, but the odd little
flutter would not subside, and seemed to get worse and worse as time
went on.  It increased rapidly as they drove home, and, when grandma
was safe in her little parlor again, Kate's hands trembled go she could
hardly tie the strings of the old lady's state and festival cap.

"We must take a look at the big parlor.  It is all trimmed up, and I've
got my presents in there.  Is it ready, Doll?" asked Kate, as the old
servant appeared, looking so excited that grandma said, laughing,--

"We have been quiet so long, poor Dolly don't know what to make of a
little gayety."

"Lord bless us, my dear mum!  It's all so beautiful and kinder
surprisin', I feel as ef merrycles had come to pass agin," answered
Dolly, actually wiping away tears with her best white apron.

"Come, grandma," and Kate offered her arm.  "Don't she look sweet and
dear?" she added, smoothing the soft, silken shawl about the old lady's
shoulders, and kissing the placid old face that beamed at her from
under the new cap.

"I always said madam was the finest old lady a-goin', ef folks only
knew it.  Now, Missy, ef you don't make haste, that parlor-door will
bust open, and spoil the surprise; for they are just bilin' over in
there," with which mysterious remark Dolly vanished, giggling.

Across the hall they went, but at the door Kate paused, and said with a
look grandma never forgot,--

"I hope I have done right.  I hope you'll like my present, and not find
it too much for you.  At any rate, remember I meant to please you and
give you the thing you need and long for most, my dear old grandma."

"My good child, don't be afraid.  I shall like any thing you do, and
thank you for your thought of me.  What a curious noise!  I hope the
fire hasn't fallen down."

Without another word, Kate threw open the door and led grandma in.
Only a step or two--for the old lady stopped short and stared about
her, as if she didn't know her own best parlor.  No wonder she didn't,
for it was full of people, and such people!  All her sons, their wives
and children, rose as she came in, and turned to greet her with smiling
faces.  Uncle George went up and kissed her, saying, with a choke in
his voice, "A merry Christmas, mother!" and everybody echoed the words
in a chorus of good-will that went straight to the heart.

Poor grandma could not bear it, and sat down in her big chair,
trembling, and sobbing like a little child.  Kate hung over her,
fearing the surprise had been too much; but joy seldom kills, and
presently the old lady was calm enough to look up and welcome them all
by stretching out her feeble hands and saying, brokenly yet heartily,--

"God bless you, my children!  This _is_ a merry Christmas, indeed!  Now
tell me all about it, and who everybody is; for I don't know half the
little ones."

Then Uncle George explained that it was Kate's plan, and told how she
had made every one agree to it, pleading so eloquently for grandma that
all other plans were given up.  They had arrived while she was at
church, and had been with difficulty kept from bursting out before the
time.

"Do you like your present?" whispered Kate, quite calm and happy now
that the grand surprise was safely over.

Grandma answered with a silent kiss that said more than the warmest
words, and then Kate put every one at ease by leading up the children,
one by one, and introducing each with some lively speech.  Everybody
enjoyed this and got acquainted quickly; for grandma thought the
children the most remarkable she had ever seen, and the little people
soon made up their minds that an old lady who had such a very nice, big
house, and such a dinner waiting for them (of course they had peeped
everywhere), was a most desirable and charming grandma.

By the time the first raptures were over Dolly and Nurse and Betsey
Jane (a girl hired for the occasion) had got dinner on the table; and
the procession, headed by Madam proudly escorted by her eldest son,
filed into the dining-room where such a party had not met for years.

It would be quite impossible to do justice to that dinner: pen and ink
are not equal to it.  I can only say that every one partook copiously
of every thing; that they laughed and talked, told stories, and sang
songs; and when no one could do any more, Uncle George proposed
grandma's health, which was drunk standing, and followed by three
cheers.  Then up got the old lady, quite rosy and young, excited and
gay, and said in a clear strong voice,--

"I give you in return the best of grandchildren, little Kate."

I give you my word the cheer they gave grandma was nothing to the shout
that followed these words; for the old lady led off with amazing vigor,
and the boys roared so tremendously that the sedate tabby in the
kitchen flew off her cushion, nearly frightened into a fit.

After that, the elders sat with grandma in the parlor, while the
younger part of the flock trooped after Kate all over the house.  Fires
burned every where, and the long unused toys of their fathers were
brought out for their amusement.  The big nursery was full of games,
and here Nursey collected the little ones when the larger boys and
girls were invited by Kate to go out and coast.  Sleds had been
provided, and until dusk they kept it up, the city girls getting as gay
and rosy as Kate herself in this healthy sport, while the lads
frolicked to their hearts' content, building snow forts, pelting one
another, and carousing generally without any policeman to interfere or
any stupid old ladies to get upset, as at home in the park.

A cosey tea and a dance in the long hall followed, and they were just
thinking what they would do next when Kate's second surprise came.

There were two great fireplaces in the hall: up the chimney of one
roared a jolly fire, but the other was closed by a tall fire-board.  As
they sat about, lasting after a brisk contra dance, a queer rustling
and tapping was heard behind this fire-board.

"Rats!" suggested the girls, jumping up into the chairs.

"Let's have 'em out!" added the boys, making straight for the spot,
intent on fun.

But before they got there, a muffled voice cried, "Stand from under!"
and down went the board with a crash, out bounced Santa Claus,
startling the lads as much as the rumor of rats had the girls.

A jolly old saint he was, all in fur, with sleigh-bells jingling from
his waist and the point of his high cap, big boots, a white beard, and
a nose as red as if Jack Frost had had a good tweak at it.  Giving
himself a shake that set all the bells ringing, he stepped out upon the
hearth, saying in a half-gruff, half-merry tone,--

"I call this a most inhospitable way to receive me!  What do you mean
by stopping up my favorite chimney?  Never mind, I'll forgive you, for
this is an unusual occasion.  Here, some of you fellows, lend a hand
and help me out with my sack."

A dozen pair of hands had the great bag out in a minute, and, lugging
it to the middle of the hall, left it beside St. Nick, while the boys
fell back into the eager, laughing crowd that surrounded the new-comer.

"Where's my girl?  I want my Kate," said the saint, and when she went
to him he took a base advantage of his years, and kissed her in spite
of the beard.

"That's not fair," whispered Kate, as rosy as the holly-berries in her
hair.

"Can't help it,--must have some reward for sticking in that horrid
chimney so long," answered Santa Claus, looking as roguish as any boy.
Then he added aloud, "I've got something for everybody, so make a big
ring, and the good fairy will hand round the gifts."

With that he dived into his bag and brought out treasure after
treasure, some fine, some funny, many useful, and all appropriate, for
the good fairy seemed to have guessed what each one wanted.  Shouts of
laughter greeted the droll remarks of the jolly saint, for he had a
joke about every thing, and people were quite exhausted by the time the
bottom of the sack was reached.

"Now, then, a rousing good game of blind man's buff, and then this
little family must go to bed, for it's past eleven."

As he spoke, the saint cast off his cap and beard, fur coat, and big
boots, and proceeded to dance a double shuffle with great vigor and
skill; while the little ones, who had been thoroughly mystified,
shouted, "Why, it's Alf!" and fell upon him _en masse_ as the best way
of expressing their delight at his successful performance of that
immortal part.

The game of blind man's buff that followed was a "rouser" in every
sense of the word, for the gentlemen joined, and the children flew
about like a flock of chickens when hawks are abroad.  Such peals of
laughter, such shouts of fun, and such racing and scrambling that old
hall had never seen before.  Kate was so hunted that she finally took
refuge behind grandma's chair, and stood there looking at the lively
scene, her face full of happiness at she remembered that it was her
work.

The going to bed that night was the best joke of all; for, though
Kate's arrangements were peculiar, every one voted that they were
capital.  There were many rooms, but not enough for all to have one
apiece.  So the uncles and aunts had the four big chambers, all the
boys were ordered into the great play-room, where beds were made on the
floor, and a great fire blazing that the camping out might be as
comfortable as possible.  The nursery was devoted to the girls, and the
little ones were sprinkled round wherever a snug corner was found.

How the riotous flock were ever got into their beds no one knows.  The
lads caroused until long past midnight, and no knocking on the walls of
paternal boots, or whispered entreaties of maternal voices through
key-holes, had any effect, for it was impossible to resist the present
advantages for a grand Christmas rampage.

The girls giggled and gossiped, told secrets, and laid plans more
quietly; while the small things tumbled into bed, and went to sleep at
once, quite used up with the festivities of this remarkable day.

Grandma, down in her own cosey room, sat listening to the blithe noises
with a smile on her face, for the past seemed to have come back again,
and her own boys and girls to be frolicking above there, as they used
to do forty years ago.

"It's all so beautiful I can't go to bed, Dolly, and lose any of it.
They'll go away to-morrow, and I may never see them any more," she
said, as Dolly tied on her night-cap and brought her slippers.

"Yes, you will, mum.  That dear child has made it so pleasant they
can't keep away.  You'll see plenty of 'em, if they carry out half the
plans they have made.  Mrs. George wants to come up and pass the summer
here; Mr. Tom says he shall send his boys to school here, and every
girl among them has promised Kate to make her a long visit.  The thing
is done, mum, and you'll never be lonely any more."

"Thank God for that!" and grandma bent her head as if she had received
a great blessing.  "Dolly, I want to go and look at those children.  It
seems so like a dream to have them here, I must be sure of it," said
grandma, folding her wrapper about her, and getting up with great
decision.

"Massy on us, mum, you haven't been up them stairs for months.  The
dears are all right, warm as toasts, and sleepin' like dormice, I'll
warrant," answered Dolly, taken aback at this new whim of old madam's.

But grandma would go, so Dolly gave her an arm, and together the two
old friends hobbled up the wide stairs, and peeped in at the precious
children.  The lads looked like a camp of weary warriors reposing after
a victory, and grandma went laughing away when she had taken a proud
survey of this promising portion of the rising generation.  The nursery
was like a little convent full of rosy nuns sleeping peacefully; while
a pictured Saint Agnes, with her lamb, smiled on them from the wall,
and the firelight flickered over the white figures and sweet faces, as
if the sight were too fair to be lost in darkness.  The little ones lay
about promiscuously, looking like dissipated Cupids with sugar hearts
and faded roses still clutched in their chubby hands.

"My darlings!" whispered grandma, lingering fondly over them to cover a
pair of rosy feet, put back a pile of tumbled curls, or kiss a little
mouth still smiling in its sleep.

But when she came to the coldest corner of the room, where Kate lay on
the hardest mattress, under the thinnest quilt, the old lady's eyes
were full of tender tears; and, forgetting the stiff joints that bent
so painfully, she knelt slowly down, and, putting her arms about the
girl, blessed her in silence for the happiness she had given one old
heart.

Kate woke at once, and started up, exclaiming with a smile,--

"Why, grandma, I was dreaming about an angel, and you look like one
with your white gown and silvery hair!"

"No, dear, you are the angel in this house.  How can I ever give you
up?" answered madam, holding fast the treasure that came to her so late.

"You never need to, grandma, for I have made my choice."



VIII.

THE MOSS PEOPLE.

  "Rain, rain, go away,
  Come again another day,"

Sang little Marnie, as she stood at the window watching the drops
patter on the pane, the elm-boughs toss in the wind, and the
clover-blossoms lift up their rosy faces to be washed.  But the rain
did not go away, and, finding that mamma had fallen asleep over her
book, Marnie said to herself,---

"I will go and play quietly with my fairy-land till mamma wakes up and
cuts me some paper fairies to put in it."

Marnie's fairy-land was as pretty a plaything as any child could wish
for, and, as every child can make one in the summer-time, let us tell
what it was.  The little girl firmly believed in elves and was always
wishing she could go to fairy-land.  That rainy day, when she had
longed for something to do, her mother said,--

"As you can't go to fairy-land, why don't you make one for yourself?"

Such a happy thought, and such a busy little girl as Marnie was,
working away, forgetful of rain or loneliness!  Mamma was so kind and
helpful in suggesting ways and supplying means, that the new fairy-land
really did seem to rise as if by enchantment.

A long, shallow box, filled with earth, which was covered with moss of
all kinds, gathered by Marnie the day before; some green as grass, some
soft as velvet, some full of red-brimmed cups, some feathery and tall,
some pale and dry: marsh, rock, tree, and field had given their share,
and out of this the little hands fashioned a dainty pleasure-ground for
the elves.  Ferns and spires of evergreen were the trees fencing in the
garden, standing in groups or making shady avenues.  Silver-white
mushrooms with rosy lining stood here and there, like little tables,
and mossy mounds or colored pebbles served for seats.  Marnie's china
bowl was sunk deep in the moss, filled with water, on which floated
pea-pod boats with rose-leaf sails.  Acorn-cups, with blue and white
comfits for eggs, were fastened in the trees, and toy-birds brooded
over their nests in the most natural manner.  Dead butterflies,
lady-bugs, and golden-green beetles from Marnie's museum, hung here and
there, as if alive.  On a small mound stood a pretty Swiss châlet, with
some droll wooden men and women near it.  One girl was churning,
another rocking a mite of a baby, a man and his donkey were just going
up the hill, and a family of wooden bears from Berne sat round a table
eating dinner.  A little marble hound with a golden chain about its
neck guarded this child's paradise, and nothing was wanted to make it
quite perfect but some of the winged paper dolls with prettily painted
faces that mamma made so nicely.

"I must wait till she wakes up," said Marnie, with a patient sigh, as
she drew her little chair before the table where the box stood, and,
leaning her chin on her chubby hand, sat looking admiringly at her work.

The ruddy glow of the fire shone warmly over the green hills and dales
of fairy-land, the soft patter of the rain sounded like tiny feet
tripping to and fro, and all the motionless inhabitants of the garden
seemed waiting for some spell to break their sleep.  Marnie never knew
how it happened, but, as she sat looking at the Swiss cottage, she
suddenly heard a rustling inside, and saw something pass before the
open windows.  She thought the chrysalis she had put in there had come
to life, and waited, hoping to see a pretty butterfly pop its head out.
But what a start she gave when suddenly the little door opened and a
wee man came marching out.  Yes, actually a living tiny man, dressed
like a hunter, in green from top to toe, with a silver horn slung over
his shoulder and a bow in his hand.

Marnie held her breath lest she should blow him away, and peeped with
all her eyes from behind the hemlock-boughs, wondering what would
happen next.  Up the steps ran the little man to the balcony that
always hangs outside a Swiss châlet, and lifting his horn to his lips
blew a blast so soft and clear it sounded like the faint, far-off carol
of a bird.  Three times the fairy bugle sounded, and at the third
blast, swarming up from the moss below, dropping from the ferns above,
floating on the ripples of the mimic lake, and turning somersaults over
the mushrooms, came hundreds of lovely little creatures, all gay, all
graceful, all in green.  How they danced to and fro, airy as motes in a
sunbeam! how they sung and shouted as they peeped everywhere! and how
their tiny faces shone as they rejoiced over the pleasant land they had
found!  For the same peal that brought the moss people from their beds
woke up every inanimate thing in fairy-land.

The toy-birds began to sing, the butterflies and lady-bugs fluttered
gayly about, the white hound broke his chain and frisked away, the
wooden maid began to churn, the mother set the cradle rocking, while
the mite of a baby kicked up its wooden legs, and the man whipped the
donkey, which gave such a natural bray Marnie couldn't help laughing,
it was so droll.  Smoke rose from the Swiss cottage, as if fairy feasts
were being cooked within; and the merry moss people, charmed with the
pretty house, crowded it so full that every window showed half-a-dozen
bright faces, the balcony quite creaked with the weight of them, and
green caps came bobbing out at the chimney-top.

Dear me, what fun they did have!  Marnie never saw such capital games
before; and the best of it was, every one joined in them,--moss men and
women, wee moss children, even moss grandfathers and mothers, as gray
as the lichens from which they came.  Delightful little folk they were,
so lovely in face, so quaint in dress, so blithe and brisk in spirit,
so wonderful and bewitching altogether that Marnie longed to call her
mother, but did not, lest a word should frighten them away.

Presently she caught the sound of delicate noises, and, listening
intently, she discovered that they were talking of her.

"Ha! ha! isn't this a fine pleasure-ground for us this rainy day!"
cried one merry moss boy, as he paused to settle his pointed cap, after
turning somersaults till he looked like a leaf blown about by the wind.

"Hush, Prance," whispered a pretty little moss girl, with a wreath of
coral in her hair, "you will wake the child if you shout so loud, and
then she will no longer see and hear us, which would be a pity; for we
amuse her, as one may guess by the smile on her face."

Now that surprised Marnie very much, for she was sure she was wide
awake, and would have said so, if she had not remembered that it was
not polite to contradict.

"What shall we do to thank this child for making as a pretty garden?"
said Prance, skipping because he couldn't keep still.

"Let us put her baby-house in order," answered little Trip, who was a
tidy body.

"So we will, and play in it afterward," cried all the moss children,
whisking away to the corner of the nursery where Marnie's toys were
tumbling about.  Such busy, helpful little people as they were! and
such wonders as they worked with their fairy fingers!  Marnie forgot to
be ashamed of the disorderly baby-house in her delight at the change
they soon wrought.

The boys mended broken chairs and tables, pots and pans, trundled the
small furniture to its proper place, and attended to the wooden cows
and horses in the topsy-turvy barn.  The little maids swept and dusted,
put the doll's clothes in order, ran about the kitchen, washing cups
and dishes, or rubbed up the mirrors in the drawing-room, which was a
very fine apartment.  Yes, indeed! for the curtains were of red damask,
the sofa had real pillows, a tiny piano tinkled its six notes, and the
centre-table held a vase of elegant wax-flowers, not to mention that
there was a grate, gilt clock, two fine candlesticks, and portraits of
all the dolls painted by mamma.

"There!" said Prance, when not a speck of dust remained: "now things
look as they should, and I hope Miss Marnie will take the hint and keep
her house tidy.  Now what shall we play?"

"I've been thinking this would be a nice chance to try living like real
people, as we have often wanted to.  Let some be servants, some fine
ladies and gentlemen, and all do as much like these persons in the
house as we can."

As Trip spoke, all the moss children clapped their hands, and skipped
about, crying,--

"We will! we will!"

The dear little sprites had no idea that servants were not as nice
parts to play as master and mistress; so one was Byelow the nurse, and
put on a cap and shawl, and took some very young moss folk into the
doll's nursery to play be the fine people's children.  Another was
cook, and clattered the pans about in the kitchen with a big apron on,
and her little dress pinned up.  A third was Dimity the maid, very
smart indeed, and full of airs.  A stoutish moss boy was coachman, and
began to rub down the painted horses, and furbish up the little
carriages in the stable; while another with plump legs put powder on
his head and played footman.

Prance and Trip took the hardest parts of all, for they said they would
be master and mistress.  There was no trouble about clothes, for some
fashion-books lay on the table, and these queer little things only had
to choose what costume they would have, when, lo and behold! there it
was all made and on.  Marnie didn't think them half so pretty in the
fashionable finery as in their own simple green suits, and she laughed
heartily at the funny mistakes they made in getting their furbelows and
feathers properly arranged.  Poor Prance quite gasped in his little
broadcloath suit as he put on a tiny beaver, smoothed his gloves, and
shouldered a doll's umbrella, saying so like Marnie's papa that she
quite started,--

"Mrs. Prance, I wish to dine at three: don't be behind hand."

"Yes, dear," meekly answered Trip, who had whisked into an elegant
morning-dress and cap, and nodded from the window as Mr. Prance went by
to his office.

"What will you have for dinner, ma'am?" asked Skillet the cook, popping
her head into the parlor where madam was playing read a novel on the
sofa.

"Mercy on us!  I'm sure I don't know;" and little Mrs. Prance ran down
to see what there was in the pantry.

Mr. Prance was evidently not a good provider; for all she could find
was a pea which came out of one of the boats, some jelly, sugar, milk,
and cake which Marnie had been playing with, and a whole dinner in
wood, painted brilliantly and stuck on to the dishes.

"It's a rainy day, and no one is likely to come to dinner, so we will
have a pease pudding with jelly, and warm up these dishes, for every
thing is very high,--we must economize," said Mrs. Prance, shaking her
head, just as mamma often did when she visited the kitchen.

"Very well, ma'am," returned Skillet, retiring into the closet to eat
cake and jelly, and drink the milk as soon as her mistress left the
room.

"It's time to dress, I suppose, for some one may call.  Get out my blue
silk and lace head-dress, Dimity," said Mrs. Prance, going up to her
chamber, too busy about her toilet to mind the baby, who was crying in
the nursery.

"Lace me tightly.  I'm growing stout, I do believe, and my figure will
be ruined if I allow it," said madam; and Dimity squeezed her into such
a light dress that Trip got a pain in her side directly.  "I can bear
it a little while, but I don't see how ladies can do it all the
time,--it's dreadful!" she sighed, as Dimity piled her pretty hair in a
fuzzy bunch on the top of her head, and hung jewels in her little ears,
after putting costly bits of lace here and there, and poking her tiny
feet into high-heeled boots that made her totter when she tried to
walk.  These and her train nearly tripped her up, for, if Dimity had
not caught her, Mrs. Prance would have tumbled downstairs.

Hardly was she safe in the parlor when the bell rang, and Buttons
showed in several very fashionable ladies, who sat down and began to
talk about dress, servants, gentlemen, and the opera, so exactly like
some of mamma's callers that Marnie wondered where the sly little moss
people could have been hidden to know how to imitate them so well.  As
soon as one lady left, all the rest said sharp things about her; and
when they got out, after saying good-by most tenderly, they all abused
Mrs. Prance, who said to herself when alone,--

"Tiresome, ill-natured creatures, I can't bear any of them; but I must
return their calls as soon as my new bonnet comes from Paris."

By the time the last gossip was gone, it was past two, and Mrs. Prance
was dying for her dinner, being quite exhausted.  Imagine her dismay
when her husband arrived with two gentlemen to dine.  She clasped her
hands and flew into the kitchen, where she found Skillet fuming over
the little stove, and scolding because it wasn't a range like the one
she used in her last place.  Every thing was in confusion, and the
prospect of dinner a gloomy one.

"We must have soup," cried distracted Mrs. Prance.

"No meat to make it of, ma'am," said Skillet, crossly.

"Boil two or three of these caraway-seeds in a pot of hot water, pepper
it well, and add the leg of that fly to give it a relish, then call it
by some French name, and it will be all right," returned Mrs. Prance,
who was suddenly inspired by this bright thought.  "Dissolve some of
the jelly for wine, and send up those nuts and raisins for dessert.  Do
your best, Skillet, and don't keep us waiting."

"I'd like to give you a week's warning, ma'am, the place don't suit
me," said the red-faced cook, with her arms akimbo.

"Don't be impertinent, Skillet!  You can go tomorrow, if you wish, but
till then behave yourself," and Mrs. Prance retired with dignity.

Dressing her tired countenance in smiles, she went to welcome her
undesired guests, and thank them for "this unexpected pleasure."  Mr.
William Wisp and Mr. Robin Goodfellow were two very elegant little
gentlemen, with ruffled shirt-fronts, eye-glasses, and curled-up
mustaches, quite splendid to behold.  They chatted with their host and
hostess in the most affable manner, affecting not to see that Mr.
Prance's face grew more and more stern every minute, and that poor Mrs.
Prance cast despairing glances at the clock, which plainly said
"half-past three."

It really was becoming awkward, when Buttons announced, "Dinner,
ma'am," and the cloud lifted suddenly from the faces of all.  Skillet
had done her best, fearing she wouldn't get her wages if she didn't;
and the first course did very well.

Greasy warm water, flavored with pepper, was so like a French soup no
one knew the difference, and everybody took a few sips and pretended to
like it; but to airy creatures, fed on sun and dew, it wasn't nice, of
course.  There was no fish, for the tin ones melted in the frying-pan;
and there was no time to get any more.  The wooden leg of mutton got
burnt in the oven, and the painted vegetables were not very
satisfactory, though they looked quite fine.  Mr. Prance frowned as he
chipped away at the meat, and Mrs. Prance wanted to sob behind her
napkin as he gave her a black look, saying sternly,--

"Mrs. P., your cook is unbearable.  I desire that you will dismiss her
at once."

"I have, my dear," meekly answered his wife; and then good-natured Mr.
Wisp struck in with a droll anecdote, while every one pecked at the
painted feast, and was glad when the pudding came.

Here was another blow; for instead of leaving the pea in its skin, and
sending it up a nice, round little pudding, Skillet had taken the skin
off as if it was the cloth it was boiled in, and nothing remained but a
mealy ruin.  Mrs. Prance groaned, and then coughed to hide the sound of
woe, and served out her dish with the calmness of despair.  The jelly
didn't go round, the cook had eaten so much on the sly; and when the
wine came, Mr. Prance looked disgusted, it was so weak.  However, the
nuts and raisins were all right; and after one sip of currant-water, in
answer to the gentlemen when they drank her health, unhappy Mrs. Prance
left the table, wishing that she never had been born.

Trip was a clever little sprite, and entered into the spirit of her
part so heartily that she really dropped a tear or two as she sat alone
in her fine drawing-room.  Presently the gentlemen came to say good-by,
for they were going to try Prance's horses.  Tired Mrs. Prance wished
her husband would ask her to join them,--a drive would be so
refreshing; but he only nodded grimly, and went away without a word.
Mrs. Prance immediately took to her bed, for she was to have a party in
the evening, and feared she never would live through it if she didn't
rest.

But very little repose did the poor lady get that afternoon, for the
children acted as if possessed.  Flibberty-Gibbet fell off his
rocking-horse and broke the bridge of his nose.  Midget set her little
dress a-fire, and frightened every one out of their wits.  Poppet ran
out of the back gate, and was lost for a whole hour; while Weewee, the
baby, had a fit, owing to Mrs. Byelow's giving him a pickle when he
cried for it.  If poor, dear Mrs. Prance was hustled off her bed once
that afternoon, she was a dozen times, and at last gave it up entirely,
whipped the children all round, scolded every servant in the house, had
a good cry and a strong cup of tea, and felt better.

The gentlemen, meantime, had each lighted a tiny cigarette, made from
one stolen from papa's box, and had driven off in great style.  Mr.
Prance had the tin gig, with Silver-gray for a horse; Mr. Wisp took the
straw chaise and yellow Bill harnessed with red; Mr. Goodfellow chose
the smart dog-cart with the creaking wheels, and black Jerry, who had
lost his tail, but was a fine beast nevertheless.  With their hats on
one side, and puffing their cigars, the little gentlemen drove gayly
round the squares in the carpet, till Prance proposed a race from one
end of a long seam to the other.

Away they went, with much cracking of whips, and crying out "Hi, yar!"
looking like three distracted bugs skimming along at a great rate.
Prance would have certainly won, if, just as he passed Mr. Wisp, the
wheel of the gig had not ran against a big knot in the seam, which
upset Mr. Prance right in the way of Mr. Wisp, whose straw chaise
turned over them all like an extinguisher.  leaving nothing to be seen
but yellow Bill's legs sticking straight up in the air.

Mr. Goodfellow passed the wreck, but soon returned in alarm to pull the
wounded from the ruins.  Prance was only shaken, but poor Mr. Wisp was
so much bruised he could not rise, and when they looked about for a
carriage in which to get him home, not one of the three could be had,
for two were smashed, and Jerry had galloped off with the dog-cart,
never pausing till he had reached the barn.  With much difficulty they
lifted the groaning Wisp on to a visiting-card, which fortunately lay
on the floor, and bore him away to the residence of Mr. Prance.

The house had just subsided after the baby's fit, when this arrival set
it all in confusion again.  Wisp was put into the best bed, where,
after a drop of arnica had been applied to his bruises, and a doll's
smelling-bottle of hot water to his feet, he groaned himself to sleep.

Leaving his friend Robin to take care of him, Mr. and Mrs. Prance
snatched a hasty cup of tea, and hurried to dress for their party.

Mr. Prance, I regret to say, was in a bad humor, for his dinner
distressed him, his broken carriages annoyed him, and he didn't feel at
all like seeing company.  He pulled the bell down ringing for hot
water, told the footman he was a "blockhead" because his boots were not
blacked to his mind, and asked his wife "why the dickens the buttons
were always off his shirts?"

Mrs. Prance was likewise out of sorts, and nothing went well.  The new
pink lace dress was not becoming.  Dimity didn't dress her hair well,
and she looked so pale and nervous that she was quite discouraged.

When master and mistress met at last in the lighted drawing-room, two
crosser little faces seldom seen.  Trip threw herself into an arm-chair
with a sigh, and put on her gloves in silence.  Prance, who was a
waggish moss boy, marched solemnly up and down the room with his hands
in his pockets, and an air of offended dignity, that made Marnie shake
with laughter.

"Mrs. Prance, you gave us a very bad dinner to-day, and I was much
mortified.  If you can't manage better, madam, I shall give up
housekeeping."

"I sincerely wish you would, my dear, for what with servants, and
children, and company, I am nearly worn out," and Mrs. Prance sobbed
behind her lace handkerchief.

"I thought when I married you that you were able to look after things
properly," said Mr. Prance, still marching up and down with a frown on
his face.

"I never was taught to do any thing but look pretty," sighed Mrs.
Prance.

"Don't be a goose, my dear."

"You used to call me an angel."

Here the bell rang.  Mr. Prance took his hands out of his pockets, Mrs.
Prance dried her tears, and both looked quite gay and beaming when the
guests appeared.

Such dashing little beaux and belles as did arrive, dressed in the most
astonishing style,--the ladies with bits of bouquets and fans, satin
slippers, and trailing skirts.  The gentlemen had stiff collars, gay
ties, wee boots and gloves, and twirled their eyeglasses as if they had
been going to parties all their lives.  Every one simpered and chatted,
laughed and flirted, looked at each other's clothes, and whispered
gossip round the room.  Then a band of moss people, led by the green
huntsman's horn, struck up the blithest dancing tune ever heard, and
the little company began to spin round in couples like a party of
teetotums.  It was not the airy, graceful gambols Marnie had admired in
her fairy-land, but it was the fashionable step, and therefore must be
elegant.  There seemed to be a good deal of romping, and the gentlemen
twisted the ladies about till they looked quite flushed.

They kept up the dancing as hard as they could till supper-time, when
every one ate as if exhausted.  Where the supper came from, Marnie
didn't know, but there it was,--ice, salad, cake, coffee, oysters, and
wine, all complete, and the company made themselves uncomfortable
eating all sorts of stuff at that late hour.  After supper, several of
the young ladies sang, opening their mouths very wide, and screaming
small screams without any music in them, while the little piano
tottered under the banging it received.  Then Misses Moth, Cobweb, and
Pease-blossom gave an air from the famous opera of _Oberon_, and every
one said, "How sweet!" as they patted their gloves together and tried
to look as if they knew all about it.

After a good deal of noise, there was dancing again, and Marnie
observed that the company got more and more excited.  Some of the
gentlemen were very silly, but the ladies did not seem to mind it.
Poor Mr. and Mrs. Prance were so tired they could hardly keep their
eyes open, and when at last their guests began to go they could
scarcely hide their joy.

"Such a charming party!"  "Had a most delightful time!" said the
people, bidding them good-night; and then added as soon as the door was
shut: "Wasn't it a miserable affair?"  "Those Prances are very ordinary
people, and I shall not go again,"--quite in the regular way.

I'm sorry to say that Mr. Prance was one of those who had taken too
much wine; and when Mrs. Prance fell into a chair exhausted, he sat
down upon the fender and began to sing,--

  "Where the bee sucks, there suck I,"

in a sleepy voice, nodding like an owl.

This was very trying to Mrs. Prance's feelings: she lost her temper,
and scolded him as well as she knew how.  Marnie was quite frightened
to hear the lecture she gave her naughty husband, who sat smiling and
blinking till his little coat-tails took fire.  The instant a bright
blaze shot up behind him as he skipped off the fender, Mrs. Prance
stopped scolding, and ran to put the fire out like a devoted little
wife.  But, oh! sad to tell, her dress caught, and in a minute two
blazes flew about the room like a pair of lively Will-o'-the-wisps.
Every one screamed and ran, men and maids, Mr. Goodfellow and his
patient, the children tumbled out of bed, and came scampering
downstairs, and Weewee roared in his cradle as loud as if he tried to
call "Fire!  Fire!"

Marnie was so frightened at the idea of those cunning, tricksy imps
being burnt up, that she screamed also with all her might, and in a
minute every sign of the moss people vanished.  She rubbed her eyes,
but all was quiet,--nothing stirred in fairy-land; the doll's house was
topsy-turvy as before, and all she saw were hundreds of motes dancing
in the sunshine that now shone brightly on her face.  Marnie was so
sorry to lose her new playmates, that she would have cried about it if
mamma had not waked up just then and asked what was the matter.  When
Marnie had told her all about it, she laughed at the funny dream, and
then looked sober, as she said, with a kiss,--

"If these sly rogues are going to come and imitate us to amuse our
little children, we must be careful what we do that we may set them a
good example."

"You and papa are not so bad as Mr. and Mrs. Prance, though you do some
of the things they did.  But the droll little moss boys and girls set
_me_ a good example in one way, and I'm going to show them that I don't
forget it," said Marnie, beginning to put her playthings in order.

"So am I," added mamma, laughing again as she put away her novel and
took up her sewing, thinking to herself that she really would attend
more to the comfort of home, and not care so much for fashionable
society.

So you see some good was done after all by the merry little phantoms of
a dream, for Marnie mamma did not forget the moss people.



IX.

WHAT FANNY HEARD.

She was lying on the rug, in the twilight, all alone, seeing pictures
in the fire, and talking to herself.

It hadn't been a happy day, and Fanny felt a little sad, though she
wouldn't own that the reason was because she had been idle,
disobedient, and wilful.

"Nobody cares for me or takes any pains to make me happy," grumbled
Fanny.  "Since mamma died, and papa went to England, I've been just as
miserable as I could be.  Cousin Mary is so sober and strict and fussy,
I don't have a bit of fun, but study, sew, walk, go to bed and get up,
like the hateful little story-book girls, who never do wrong or get
tired of going on as regularly as a clock.  Oh, dear! if I had some
friends and playmates, this big, quiet house wouldn't seem so dismal."

Fanny laid her face on her arm and tried to cry but not having any
thing to cry for, she couldn't squeeze out a single tear.  Suddenly she
heard a chime of delicate bells ringing sweetly in the room, and
filling the air with perfume.

"Bless me, what's that?" and Fanny popped up her head to see.  But
every thing was still and in its place, and when she spoke the bells
ceased.

So she lay down again, and presently heard a sweet little voice say
sorrowfully,--

"What an ungrateful child Fanny is to say she has no friends, when the
house is full of them, if she would only learn to see them!  Her good
cousin took her home, and tries to be a mother to her, though she is
feeble and fond of quiet.  It was very kind of her to have a noisy,
spoilt child always about; for, though it worries her, she never
complains, but tries to make Fanny a gentle, helpful, happy child."

The blue hyacinth standing in the window said this, and the lovely pink
one answered warmly,--

"Yes, indeed! and I often wonder that Fanny doesn't see this, and try
to return some of the patient care by affectionate little acts, and
grateful words, and cheerful looks.  Why, she might make this house
perfectly charming, if she chose: it was too lonely and still before,
but now a bright-faced, gentle little girl, with her merry ways, would
delight us all.

"I bloom my best to please her, and send out my perfume to attract her,
for I love her much, and want her to feel that I am her friend.  But
she takes no notice of me, she doesn't care for my love, she is blind
to my beauty, and gives no answer to my sweet invitation, though she
longs for playmates all the time."

With a soft sigh the flowers shook their delicate heads, and said no
more.  But before Fanny could speak, Goldy, the canary, gave a little
skip on his perch, and cried out, in a shrill chirp,--

"I quite agree with you, ladies: that child doesn't know how to enjoy
her blessings, or recognize her friends when she sees them.  Here I sit
day after day, telling her in all sorts of ways how glad I am she is
come; how fond I am of her, and how much I want to talk with her.  I
get quite excited sometimes, and sing till my throat aches, trying to
make her understand all this; but she won't, and all I get for my pains
is a pettish, 'Do stop screaming, you noisy bird,' and a cloth over the
cage to keep me quiet.  It's very hard;" and Goldy shook a little tear
out of his round black eye.  "I love the sun, and air, and blithe
company so dearly, and she won't let me have any of them.

"She promised to take care of me, but she doesn't, and I go hungry,
thirsty, and untidy, while she mopes and wishes she had something
pleasant to do.

"To-day, now, I've had neither seed nor water; no sniff of fresh air,
no fly about the room, not a bit of apple, not a kind word or look, but
have sat in the dark, with the cover over my cage, because I tried to
tell how glad I was to see the sun, in spite of my hunger and thirst,
loneliness and homesickness.  Ah, well! some day she may be kinder to
me, and then I'll show her what a loving friend I can be."

And with a last peck at the husks that lay in the cage, a last sad look
about his gloomy house, Goldy put his head under his wing and tried to
forget his troubles in sleep.

Fanny was going to start up and feed and pet him, with remorseful
tenderness, when a new voice sounded behind her, and she waited to
listen.

It was the piano, and every thing it said went to a sort of tune,
because it couldn't help being musical at all times.

"When first she came to stay, little Fanny used to play and sing like
any lark, between the daylight and the dark, and our mistress loved it
well.  But now, I grieve to tell, she scarcely sings a note; no more
the sweet songs float like spirits through the gloom, making gay the
quiet room.

"I cannot tell how much her little fingers' touch ever thrills me with
delight; how my keys, black and white, love to dance as she plays; how
my pedal quick obeys, and bass and treble blend, to please our little
friend.

"But now she sits apart, with discord in her heart, forgetting I am
here with power to soothe and cheer; that she'd better sing than sigh,
better laugh than cry, for hearts get out of tune, and should be mended
soon.

"Little Fanny, sing again, like a bird in spite of rain.  Fill the
house with music gay, make a concert of each day; and when others play
on you, answer sweetly, as I do."

"Why, it's talking poetry, I do believe!" cried Fanny, as the last
words went echoing through the room and died away.

"How any one can be lonely with us for friends is hard to understand,"
said another voice from the bookcase.  "Here we are, lots of us, rows
of us, regiments of us; every sort of story book; here's fairy tales
new and old; here's Robinson Crusoe and dear old Mother Goose, Mrs.
Barbauld and Miss Edgeworth; here's German picture books and French
fables, English games and American notions, of every kind.  Come and
read us, come and read us, and never say again you have no friends, and
nothing to do."

There was such a noise that no one heard Fanny laugh out, for each book
was shouting its own title and making such a stir it sounded like a
wind blowing dry leaves about.

"I don't wish to intrude myself, for I'm not literary, nor musical, nor
botanical; but I am domestic, and have an eye for all useful things,"
said a needle, in a sharp tone, as it sat bolt upright in Fanny's
topsy-turvy basket, on the table.

"I am woman's friend, and with my help she does a deal of good, whiles
away many long hours, and finds a good deal of quiet happiness in my
society.  Little girls don't care much for me until they have doll
children to sew for; even then some of them neglect and abuse me, and
don't learn to use me nicely.  I know a young lady who hasn't a rag to
her back; and yet her mamma takes no pains to clothe her, though a
charming blue dress, and white apron, and nice little underclothes lie
all ready cut out and basted.

"I pity that poor doll so much that I'd gladly sew for her alone, if I
could.  I'm afraid I should be thought rude, if I suggested to the
mamma to sew instead of fretting, so I wouldn't say a word on any
account; but I see more than people would believe, and judge
accordingly."

After which pointed remarks, the needle actually winked at the thimble,
and then sat stiffer than ever in the unfinished blue gown.

Fanny was so ashamed that she turned her face toward the fire, just in
time to see a brilliant spark-spirit standing in a cave of glowing
coals.  Waving its tiny hand, the spirit said,--

"Years ago a little girl lived here, who made this the happiest home
ever seen, by her gentle ways, her loving heart, her cheerful voice,
and willing hands.

"Every one loved her, and she was always happy, for duty was pleasant.
The world was bright, and she was never out of tune.

"She tended flowers in the window yonder, and grew as beautiful as
they; she touched the old piano, and filled the house with music; she
fed her little bird, and was as cheerful as he; she read and studied
those books, growing wise and good and gay on the food they gave her;
she sewed busily, clothing naked children as well as dolls, and many
blessed her.  She often lay where you lie now, not discontented and
sad, but with a happy heart, a busy fancy, and the love of many friends
to keep her always blithe.

"We loved her well, and we love you for her dear sake.  If you would
see her image, look up and try to imitate her."

Rather startled at the serious manner of the sprite, Fanny lifted her
eyes, and there hung the picture of her mother, when a little girl.
She had often seen it before, but it never had seemed so beautiful and
dear as now, when, looking at it with full eyes, little Fanny said
softly to herself,--

"O dear mamma, I will be like you, if I can: I'll find friends where
you found them; I'll make home happy as you did.  I'll try to be loved
for your sake, and grow a useful, cheerful, good woman, like you."



X.

A MARINE MERRY-MAKING.

"Are you going to Mrs. Turtle's this evening?" asked a gay young
Periwinkle of his friend Cockle, as they met on the sands.

"Well, I don't know: what is to be done, and who will be there?"
replied Cockle, rather languidly, for it had been a very gay season,
and he was decidedly "used up."

"There will be no dancing, for the alderman doesn't approve of it; but
there is to be singing, tableaux, and a supper of course.  It's the
last night of the season; and, as they are having a farewell hop up at
the hotel, we thought we would get up some sort of fun among ourselves.
Lovely Lily Crab will be there; the Lobsters, Barnacles, Horse-shoes,
and Sea-snails, besides the Mosquitoes, Fire-flies, and Water-beetles.
I hear there are also to be strangers of distinction, a Flying-fish, a
Water-shrew, and Mother Carey's Chickens."

"Hum, ha, well; maybe I'll look in for an hour.  I rather fancy Lily
Crab; and the alderman gives capital suppers.  I'm going to enjoy a
weed; so ta-ta, till this evening."

Young Cockle didn't mean a cigar, but a nap under the sea-weed.
Periwinkle took a weed also; and both were so much refreshed that they
were among the first at the party.

The Turtles were a very aristocratic family, for they were both ancient
and honorable.  Their coat-of-arms was a globe resting on a turtle's
back; and so many of their ancestors had been aldermen, it was vain to
try to count them.  Even their diseases were aristocratic, for they
always died of apoplexy or gout.  Some people said it was because they
were such high livers; but the turtles insisted that it was hereditary,
and couldn't be helped.  They were very slow, and rather heavy, but
intensely dignified and well-bred.  They lived elegantly, gave fine
parties, and had one son, who was considered a very eligible young
Turtle.  It was thought that he would marry the beautiful Lily Crab,
the belle of the bay; but she flirted sadly with Oceanicus Lobster, and
no one could tell which she would take.

The Turtles had chosen a fine, smooth place on the beach, with a pretty
pool near by, for such of the guests as could not remain long out of
water.  A flat rock at one end was set apart as a stage for the
tableaux; and at the other end the supper was spread.  The alderman
waddled importantly about before the company arrived, looking very
portly and imposing; while his wife, in black velvet and gold
ornaments, sat tranquilly by, and took a little rest before the labors
of the evening began.  Columbus, the son, was elegantly got up in a new
suit of black, with a white tie, and a flower in his button-hole.  The
moon served for a chandelier; and a party of fireflies had promised to
act as footlights when they were needed.  The tide was coming in; and,
instead of carriages, wave after wave rolled up and left its load at
the Turtles' door.

The Barnacles and Mussels came first, for they seldom left home, and
always got back again at an early hour.  Miss Mosquito arrived, full of
scandal and gossip, and kept up a perpetual hum in some one's ear,
though everybody disliked, and tried to get rid of her.  She was a
vixenish spinster, thin, satirical, sharp-tongued, and so bad-tempered
that people said her name, which was Xantippe, suited her excellently.
A modest little Water-shrew, in Quaker drab, came with the Beetles, who
took their places near the pool, being unused to crowds.  The Lobsters,
always a peculiar family, came straggling in, one by one, in their
usual awkward way, and were soon followed by the Periwinkles and
Cockles.  A party of Petrels came marching in with the Flying-fish, who
looked, and doubtless felt, entirely out of his element.  The bustle
caused by the arrival of the distinguished strangers had just subsided,
when Columbus Turtle and Oceanicus Lobster were seen to rush toward the
door; young Cockle put his glass in his eye, and Periwinkle sighed.
There was a stir among the ladies, and Miss Mosquito spitefully
remarked to her Cousin Firefly, "Dear me! what a fuss they do make
about those vulgar people!"

"Commodore Crab, Mrs. Crab, and Miss Crab!" announced the servant, and
in they came.  The commodore had taken part in many sea-fights, and was
famous for never letting go when once he had grappled with a foe.  But
he was rather shy in company, and so was madame; and often, when any
one approached to speak to them, they both precipitately retreated
backward, so retiring were the dispositions of this excellent couple.
The commodore wore his orange uniform, and limped, having lost a leg in
battle.  Mrs. C. was elegantly attired in green, with red ornaments.
But Miss Crab,--how shall I paint that lovely creature?  She was in
snowy white from head to foot, a perfect blonde, and carried in her
hand an exquisite bouquet of rosy seaweed, the sight of which caused
young Turtle to glare at young Lobster, for both had sent bouquets, and
Lily had chosen his rival's.  Now her parents wished the young lady to
accept Columbus, for he was rich; but she loved him not, for she had
given her heart to Oceanicus, who was poor.  Still, having been
fashionably brought up, she felt it was her duty to secure a fine
establishment; and so she tried to like dull Columbus, while she
flirted with sprightly Oceanicus.  Matters had reached a crisis, and it
was evident that something would be decided that very night, for both
gentlemen haunted the fair Lily's steps, and scowled at one another
tragically.

"I always thought there would be mischief there, for that girl's
behavior is scandalous.  There was a case very much like this at the
hotel last year, and it ended in an elopement and a suicide," buzzed
Miss Mosquito in the ear of Madam Turtle, who drew herself up, as she
replied, in her most dignified tone, glancing at her son,--

"I have no fears in that quarter: such affairs are conducted with
propriety in our first families.  Excuse me: I have a word for Mrs.
Crab."

"If that is a sample of the manners of 'our first families,' I'm glad I
don't belong to 'em," scolded Miss Mosquito to herself.  "Ah, if I had
my way, I'd soon spoil your beauty, miss," she muttered, looking at
Lily Crab.  And so she would; for this spiteful creature used to
delight in stinging the pretty girls up at the hotel, especially their
poor dear noses, till they weren't fit to be seen.

The Snails came late, as they always did; and one of them, on being
introduced to the Shrew-mouse, began to complain of her servants, as
fashionable ladies are apt to do when they get together.

"There never was such a perfect slave to a house as I am to mine," she
said.  "We see a great deal of company, and things must be in order;
but they never are, though we keep ten servants.  How do you manage,
ma'am?  You look quite plump and serene; and here am I worn to the
bone, with my worries and cares."

"I come from the brook over the hill, and we country people live much
more simply than you city folks.  I keep no servants at all, but do
every thing myself, and bring up my eight children without help,"
answered the Shrew-mouse, settling the folds of her white shawl with a
tranquil air.

"Dear me! how remarkable!  But, you see, an active life doesn't suit
me.  You have always been used to that sort of thing, I dare say, and
so get on very well.  _I_ was brought up differently."  And, with a
cool stare, the handsome violet Snail moved slowly away, while the
Shrew-mouse and the Beetles laughed among themselves.

"Pray, how came a person who does her own work to get into our set?"
asked Madam Snail of a testy old Horse-shoe whom she much respected.

"Because she is a very charming person, and I advised Turtle to invite
her," replied the Horse-shoe, in a tone as sharp as his tail.

"Dear me! what are we coming to?" sighed the Snail, who, being very
conservative, disliked progress of all kinds.

"My dear sir, I assure you, it's a splendid investment,--perfectly
safe, and very desirable," said old Lobster to the alderman, whom he
held by the button-hole in a corner.

"Are you the president of the bank?" asked old Turtle, with a sly
twinkle of the eye.

"No, sir, not even a director; but I take an interest in it, and, if I
had your means, I'd invest there, for the safest bank I know is that of
my friends Oyster, Mussel, and Company," replied Lobster, who was as
deep an old party as ever swam.

"I'll think of it, and make inquiries, and, if it's all satisfactory,
I'll take your advice, for I value your opinion, and have confidence in
your judgment," said Turtle, who considered Lobster an unprincipled
speculator.

"Praise from you, sir, may well make me proud.  You will certainly be
re-elected, and remain an alderman to the day of your death, if the
influence and vote of A. Lobster can keep you in place," answered the
other, who looked upon Turtle as a thick-headed, easy-going old
gentleman, whom it would not be difficult to defraud of his money in
some strictly business-like way.

"It's all right: he'll nibble, and we shall float in spite of fate,"
whispered Lobster to his friend Hercules Mussel, in a tone of
exultation, for the fact was the bank of Oyster, Mussel, and Company
was in a very desperate state, though few suspected it.

Meantime Miss Lily was driving her lovers to despair, by being
extremely amiable to both.  She sat on a sea-green sofa, fanning
herself with a tiny coral fan, while the two gentlemen stood before
her, trying to annoy each other and amuse her.

"Sad affair, that of Bessie Barnacle and young Cockle, wasn't it?" said
Columbus, in his slow way, thinking it would please Lily to pity or
condemn her former rival.

"What was it?  I've been shut up for a week with a sad cold, and have
heard nothing," replied the young lady, fixing her large eyes on
Columbus in a way that confused him dreadfully in his story.

"Why, you know, she was all but engaged to Phillip Periwinkle, cousin
to Tom who is here to-night; but just as the thing was considered
settled, Charley Cockle cut in, and they eloped.  Her family insist
that she was torn away; but I doubt it."

"So do I.  Any girl of sense would prefer a fine fellow like Charley,
without a cent, to a noodle worth half a million, like Phil
Periwinkle," said Oceanicus, in a tone that made the blood of Columbus
boil.

"It was a most improper and ungentlemanly thing to do, and no one but a
low-born puppy would have done it," he answered grimly.

"Well, I should say Phil was the puppy, to take a beating so quietly.
I consider it a spirited thing on Charley's part, and I fancy Miss Lily
agrees with me," returned Oceanicus, with an insinuating smile and bow.

"You oughtn't to ask me such naughty questions," simpered Lily behind
her fan.  "It was dreadfully improper, and all that sort of thing, I
know; but then it was so romantic, and I adore romance,--don't you, Mr.
Turtle?"

"Decidedly not that style of it.  In good families such things are not
allowed; but it is no more than I should expect of a Cockle," remarked
Columbus, with scorn.

"Now, really, my dear fellow, you ought not to be so severe, when your
Cousin Theresa did the same thing, you know."

As Oceanicus said this, he looked straight at young Turtle in the most
impertinent manner.  But for once Columbus was his match, for he said
coolly, "Old Barnacle vows he will have Cockle imprisoned, if he can
find a fit place for such a young rascal, and I advised him to try a
lobster-pot."

Now that was a direct insult, for Oceanicus had been caught in one not
long ago, on his way home from a frolic, and would have been boiled if
his friends had not gone to the rescue.  It was considered a sad
disgrace to die by boiling, or to be caught in any way; so the Lobster
family hushed it up as carefully as the Turtles did Theresa's runaway
match.  Oceanicus gave Columbus a look which he long remembered, but
said nothing to him; and turning to Miss Crab, as if they were alone,
he murmured regretfully, "My dear Lily, it must be dreadfully dull for
you with no dancing.  Won't you let me bring you something to eat?  I
see they have begun supper at last."

"I was about to take Miss Crab down myself," said young Turtle,
haughtily.

"Now don't quarrel and be absurd about me.  I am going to stay here,
and you may each bring me something.  I could fancy a shrimp, and a
glass of briny," said Miss Lily, hoping to soothe the angry gentlemen.

Both rushed away; but Oceanicus, who was always brisk, got back first,
and whispered, as he handed the glass, "Remember after the tableaux."

"Oh, dear, no!  I couldn't think of it!" cried Miss Lily, with a little
scream.  "Now you may hold my things, while I eat.  Be careful not to
break that, for I value it very much," she added, as she handed Turtle
the fan he had given her.  "How sweet they are!  I do so love flowers,"
she went on taking a long sniff at her bouquet before she gave it to
Lobster to hold.  Then, taking off her gloves, she coquettishly sipped
her wine; and, holding the shrimp in one delicate claw, she daintily
picked off its legs, putting them bit by bit into her mouth, till
nothing but the tail remained, which Turtle kept as a love-token.

"My dear creature, how miserably you are looking: I'm afraid this gay
season has been too much for you.  People at your time of life should
be careful of themselves," said Miss Mosquito to Fanny Firefly, who was
a universal favorite, being a bright, merry little lady.

"I'm very well, thank you, dear, and none the worse for my gayeties.
If you can stand a dissipated season, I guess I can, for you are older
than me, you know," returned Miss Fanny, sweetly, as she walked away
with Tom Periwinkle, who shunned "Miss Skeet," as he called her, as if
she had been a walking pest,--a flying one she certainly was.

"Poor girl!  I'm sorry she is losing her good looks so fast, and
getting so sharp and sour.  She used to be rather pretty and amiable,
but she is quite spoilt, and having neither money nor accomplishments
she will soon be quite forgotten," said Xantippe, with a sigh that said
plainly, "If she was like me, now, she'd be every thing that was good
and charming."

"How are the Horse-shoes getting on, Miss Mosquito?" asked Mrs. Turtle.

"I don't see much of them, they are not in my set, you know.  People
who rose from mud, and still have relations living there, are not the
sort of persons with whom I care to associate," replied Xantippe, with
a scornful perk of her long nose.

Now both the Turtles and Lobsters had connections in Mudville, and so
of course were offended by that speech.  Old Mrs. Lobster turned as red
as if she had been boiled; but Mrs. Turtle never forgot herself, and
changed the subject by saying politely, "We are going to have supper
early on account of the tableaux: as you are going to act, won't you
step down with me and have some refreshment before the rush begins?"

"Thank you, I'm going to supper at the hotel by and by.  I'm rather
delicate, you know, and I find the things I get there agree with me
better than common suppers.  I see Mrs. Barnacle is expecting me to
come and amuse her, so I must fly.  Pray take care and not excite
yourself, my dear lady, for you know apoplexy is sadly fatal to your
family.  You, Mrs. Lobster, are happy in being free from that
aristocratic complaint."  And with these farewell stings, Miss Mosquito
buzzed away, leaving the two old ladies to exclaim angrily, as they
settled their cap-ribbons, "Xantippe gets quite unbearable.  She is
regularly blood-thirsty, and stabs right and left with her cruel
tongue.  Let us go and have a comfortable dish of tea, my dear; I'm
sure we need it."

It was very amusing to see the company at supper; the alderman trying
to think of his guests before himself; the young ladies delicately
picking at their food, and pretending to have no appetite after taking
a hearty tea at home; the young men eating every thing they could lay
their hands on, and drinking more than was good for them.  The old
ladies were rather neglected, but made the best of it, and slipped a
few trifles into their pockets for the dears at home; while their stout
husbands stuffed till they were speechless.

After supper, there was singing; and the Petrels came out splendidly,
for they were a glee club, and sung all sorts of sea-songs in fine
style, particularly "A Life on the Ocean Wave," and "Rocked in the
Cradle of the Deep."  Miss Mosquito, in a shrill small voice, sang
Tennyson's "Blow, Bugle, blow;" and Mrs. Shrew-mouse gave a lullaby
very sweetly.  Old Lobster, who was a gay fellow still, warbled "I know
a bank," which made Old Turtle laugh till they thought he would
certainly go off in a fit; and, to Lily's delight, young Lobster's
serenade entirely eclipsed young Turtle's _barcarolle_.  After this,
the Flying-Fish performed some wonderful feats in the pool; and the
Beetles were allowed as a special favor to show the young people the
new Grasshopper-step which was all the rage.

Then came the tableaux.  A row of fireflies made capital foot-lights; a
thick cobweb was the curtain, and two spiders were engaged to work it.
Monsieur Hyla, a tree-frog, piped sweetly between the pictures, and
every thing went smoothly.  The first was a scene from "The Tempest."
A venerable Horse-shoe was Prospero, and his stiff tail was very
effective as the magic wand.  Lily Crab was Miranda, and looked lovely
as she gazed admiringly at Oceanicus, who played Ferdinand.  A Hedgehog
did Caliban; a Firefly was Ariel; and the picture was a great success
everybody said but Columbus Turtle.

The alderman himself consented to appear in the next as the Ancient
Mariner telling his story to the wedding guest.  His face was wanting
in expression, and he was rather stout for the haunted man; but as
several members of his family had led seafaring lives, and died at
fabulously great ages, he felt it was an appropriate part for him.
Young Lobster was the detained guest, and was really fine in the
longing look he gave at the bridal train just passing by.  Columbus was
the bridegroom, and Lily the bride, and very sweet she looked under her
veil; while Turtle was absolutely brilliant with momentary excitement.

The "Three Fishers" followed, and was the gem of the whole, for one of
the Petrels chanted the words as the scenes were shown.  First, the
fishers were seen "sailing out into the west" on the pool in large
shells.  A Jelly-fish, young Cockle, and Tom Periwinkle were the
fishers, and the ladies applauded violently, as they rowed gallantly
away.  Then the three wives appeared up in the light-house tower, which
was made by collecting the fireflies on the top of the rock, while the
Shrew-mouse, Miss Beetle, and Miss Snail, as the wives, looked
anxiously out for the boats "that would never come back to the land."
The gentlemen quite brought down the house at this, but the ladies
thought it "just a trifle flat."  The last scene was really thrilling,
for the "three corpses lay out on the shining sands," and "the women
were weeping and wringing their hands" most tragically.  Young
Jelly-fish was very ghostly, and the anguish of Mrs. Shrew-mouse so
capitally acted it was evident she had known sorrow.  "The Lily Maid of
Astolat" followed, for that and the "Fishers" are always favorites at
the seaside.  Of course Lily Crab was the maid, laid on a bed of
splendid sea-weeds in the great rosy-lipped shell which was the boat.
In the prow sat a toad, as the faithful old dwarf who steered her down
to Camelot, and his ugliness made her beauty more dazzling.  On the
shore of the pool stood the handsomest Petrel, as King Arthur; another
was Lancelot; and a pretty Miss Periwinkle was Guinevere.  A good many
of the company had not read "Idyls of the King," and hadn't the least
idea what it all meant; but they took care to look as if they did, and
patted their hands with an approving, "Very sweet," "Quite exquisite;"
"Really, it does the young people a vast deal of credit;" "Altogether
_commy la faut_," as old Mrs. Lobster said, trying to be elegant,
though she was a very ordinary woman, who could do nothing but make
salads, for her father kept a restaurant years ago.

The last one was the "Corsair's Bride."  Columbus was the stern papa,
and Lily the lovely daughter, both in the Greek costume, and it is easy
for one to imagine how becoming it must have been.

This was an acted tableau; for, as Haidee lay listlessly on her divan,
thinking of the gallant being who had sung under her window one
moonlight night, the same gallant being magnificently got up as a
corsair burst into the room, followed by his band.  Oceanicus looked as
dark, fierce, and melodramatic as half-a-dozen Byrons, and quite
electrified the audience by knocking down the stately papa, exclaiming,
"Tyrant, I defy thee!  Ha! ha! she is mine!" and rushing from the stage
with Lily on his arm.

This thrilling display of tragic power produced round after round of
tumultuous applause, and cries of "Lob!  Lob!" from all parts of the
house.  The curtain rose, but no one appeared except Columbus, still on
the ground, having been half-stunned and wholly bewildered by the
attack, that not having been planned beforehand.  He lay staring
blankly, and looking so forlorn that the wags who had pulled up the
curtain dropped it, and raised him instead.  Everybody laughed at him,
and praised Oceanicus.  The Lobsters quite glowed with pride; the young
ladies declared it was "perfectly thrilling;" and the young gentlemen
vowed that "Lob outdid himself, by Jove!"

By the time the excitement subsided, people began to wonder why the
"stars" didn't appear to receive their honors.  But nowhere could they
be found, and Mrs. Crab began to look anxious.  Some one suggested that
they might be strolling on the beach to cool and compose themselves.  A
careful search was made, but no trace of them was discovered, till an
old Jelly-fish who was lying on the sand informed them that a young
couple had sailed away not long before, and that he heard them say
there would be just time to stop at the Rev. Dr. Cod's before they
caught the outward-bound steamer.

When this dreadful intelligence was carried back to the party, Mrs.
Crab fainted dead away, and the Commodore stamped about, using very
strong language.  Miss Mosquito triumphantly exclaimed, "I told you
so;" and every one was much excited.

The party broke up at once, and as the last wave left the door Mrs.
Turtle said with a long sigh, "For my part, I'm glad the season's over,
that we are done with fashion and frivolity, and can go back to our
simple, sensible ways, and live like respectable creatures."



Cambridge: Press of John Wilson & Son.





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