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Jack and Jill
by Louisa May Alcott
To the schoolmates of ELLSWORTH DEVENS
Whose lovely character will not soon be forgotten
This Village Story is affectionately inscribed by their friend
Chapter 1 The Catastrophe
Chapter 2 Two Penitents
Chapter 3 Ward No. I
Chapter 4 Ward No. 2
Chapter 5 Secrets
Chapter 6 Surprises
Chapter 7 Jill's Mission
Chapter 8 Merry and Molly
Chapter 9 The Debating Club
Chapter 10 The Dramatic Club
Chapter 11 "Down Brakes"
Chapter 12 The Twenty-second of February
Chapter 13 Jack Has a Mystery
Chapter 14 And Jill Finds it out
Chapter 15 Saint Lucy
Chapter 16 Up at Merry's
Chapter 17 Down at Molly's
Chapter 18 May Baskets
Chapter 19 Good Templars
Chapter 20 A Sweet Memory
Chapter 21 Pebbly Beach
Chapter 22 A Happy Day
Chapter 23 Cattle Show
Chapter 24 Down the River
Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To coast with fun and laughter;
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Chapter 1 The Catastrophe
Clear the lulla!was the general cry on a bright December
afternoonwhen all the boys and girls of Harmony Village were
out enjoying the first good snow of the season. Up and down three
long coasts they went as fast as legs and sleds could carry them.
One smooth path led into the meadowand here the little folk
congregated; one swept across the pondwhere skaters were
darting about like water-bugs; and the thirdfrom the very top of
the steep hillended abruptly at a rail fence on the high bank above
the road. There was a group of lads and lasses sitting or leaning on
this fence to rest after an exciting raceandas they reposedthey
amused themselves with criticising their matesstill absorbed in
this most delightful of out-door sports.
Here comes Frank Minot, looking as solemn as a judge,cried
oneas a tall fellow of sixteen spun bywith a set look about the
mouth and a keen sparkle of the eyesfixed on the distant goal
with a do-or-die expression.
Here's Molly Loo
And little Boo?
sang out another; and down came a girl with flying hair, carrying a
small boy behind her, so fat that his short legs stuck out from the
sides, and his round face looked over her shoulder like a full
There's Gus Burton; doesn't he go it?" and such a very long boy
whizzed bythat it looked almost as if his heels were at the top of
the hill when his head was at the bottom!
Hurrah for Ed Devlin!and a general shout greeted a sweet-faced
ladwith a laugh on his lipsa fine color on his brown cheekand a
gay word for every girl he passed.
Laura and Lotty keep to the safe coast into the meadow, and
Molly Loo is the only girl that dares to try this long one to the
pond. I wouldn't for the world; the ice can't be strong yet, though it
is cold enough to freeze one's nose off,said a timid damselwho
sat hugging a post and screaming whenever a mischievous lad
shook the fence.
No, she isn't here's Jack and Jill going like fury.
Clear the track
For jolly Jack!
sang the boyswho had rhymes and nicknames for nearly
Down came a gay red sledbearing a boy who seemed all smile
and sunshineso white were his teethso golden was his hairso
bright and happy his whole air. Behind him clung a little gypsy of
a girlwith black eyes and haircheeks as red as her hoodand a
face full of fun and sparkleas she waved Jack's blue tippet like a
banner with one handand held on with the other.
Jill goes wherever Jack does, and he lets her. He's such a
good-natured chap, he can't say No.
To a girl,slyly added one of the boyswho had wished to borrow
the red sledand had been politely refused because Jill wanted it.
He's the nicest boy in the world, for he never gets mad,said the
timid young ladyrecalling the many times Jack had shielded her
from the terrors which beset her path to schoolin the shape of
cowsdogsand boys who made faces and called her "Fraidcat."
He doesn't dare to get mad with Jill, for she'd take his head off in
two minutes if he did,growled Joe Flintstill smarting from the
rebuke Jill had given him for robbing the little ones of their safe
coast because he fancied it.
She wouldn't! she's a dear! You needn't sniff at her because she is
poor. She's ever so much brighter than you are, or she wouldn't
always be at the head of your class, old Joe,cried the girls
standing by their friend with a unanimity which proved what a
favorite she was.
Joe subsided with as scornful a curl to his nose as its chilly state
permittedand Merry Grant introduced a subject of general interest
by asking abruptly
Who is going to the candy-scrape to-night?
All of us. Frank invited the whole set, and we shall have a tiptop
time. We always do at the Minots',cried Suethe timid trembler.
Jack said there was a barrel of molasses in the house, so there
would be enough for all to eat and some to carry away. They know
how to do things handsomely; and the speaker licked his lipsas if
already tasting the feast in store for him.
Mrs. Minot is a mother worth having,said Molly Loocoming up
with Boo on the sled; and she knew what it was to need a mother
for she had noneand tried to care for the little brother with
maternal love and patience.
She is just as sweet as she can be!declared Merry
Especially when she has a candy-scrape,said Joetrying to be
amiablelest he should be left out of the party.
Whereat they all laughedand went gayly away for a farewell
frolicas the sun was setting and the keen wind nipped fingers and
toes as well as noses.
Down they wentone after anotheron the various coasts solemn
Franklong Gusgallant Edfly-away Molly Loopretty Laura and
Lottygrumpy Joesweet-faced Merry with Sue shrieking wildly
behind hergay Jack and gypsy Jillalways together one and all
bubbling over with the innocent jollity born of healthful exercise.
People passing in the road below looked up and smiled
involuntarily at the red-cheeked lads and lassesfilling the frosty
air with peals of laughter and cries of triumph as they flew by in
every conceivable attitude; for the fun was at its height nowand
the oldest and gravest observers felt a glow of pleasure as they
lookedremembering their own young days.
Jack, take me down that coast. Joe said I wouldn't dare to do it, so
I must,commanded Jillas they paused for breath after the long
trudge up hill. Jillof coursewas not her real namebut had been
given because of her friendship with Jackwho so admired Janey
Pecq's spirit and fun.
I guess I wouldn't, It is very bumpy and ends in a big drift; not
half so nice as this one. Hop on and we'll have a good spin across
the pond; and Jack brought "Thunderbolt" round with a skilful
swing and an engaging air that would have won obedience from
anybody but wilful Jill.
It is very nice, but I won't be told I don't 'dare by any boy in the
world. If you are afraid, I'll go alone.Andbefore he could speak
she had snatched the rope from his handthrown herself upon the
sledand was offhelter-skelterdown the most dangerous coast on
She did not get farhowever; forstarting in a hurryshe did not
guide her steed with careand the red charger landed her in the
snow half-way downwhere she lay laughing till Jack came to pick
If you will go, I'll take you down all right. I m not afraid, for I ve
done it a dozen times with the other fellows; but we gave it up
because it is short and bad,he saidstill good-naturedthough of
cowsdogsand boys who made faces and called her "Fraidcat.
He doesn't dare to get mad with Jill, for she'd take his head off in
two minutes if he did,growled Joe Flintstill smarting horn the
rebuke Jill had given him for robbing the little ones of their safe
coast because he fancied it.
She wouldn't! she's a dear! You needn't sniff at her because she is
poor. She's ever so much brighter than you are, or she wouldn't
always be at the head of your class, old Joe,cried the girls
standing by their friend with a unanimity which proved what a
favorite she was.
Joe subsided with as scornful a curl to his nose as its chilly state
permittedand Merry Grant introduced a subject of general interest
by asking abruptly
Who is going to the candy-scrape to-night?
All of us. Frank invited the whole set, and we shall have a tiptop
time. We always do at the Minors',cried Suethe timid trembler.
Jack said there was a barrel of molasses in the house, so there
would be enough for all to eat and some to carry away. They know
how to do things handsomely; and the speaker licked his lipsas if
already tasting the feast in store for him.
Mrs. Minot is a mother worth having,said Molly Loocoming up
with Boo on the sled; and she knew what it was to need a mother
for she had noneand tried to care for the little brother with
maternal love and patience.
She is just as sweet as she can be!declared Merry
Especially when she has a candy-scrape,said Joetrying to be
amiablelest he should be left out of the party.
Whereat they all laughedand went gayly away for a farewell
frolicas the sun was setting and the keen wind nipped fingers and
toes as well as noses.
A little hurt at the charge of cowardice; for Jack was as brave as a
little lionand with the best sort of bravery the courage to do right.
So it is; but I must do it a few times, or Joe will plague me and
spoil my fun to-night,answered Jillshaking her skirts and
rubbing her blue handswet and cold with the snow.
Here, put these on; I never use them. Keep them if they fit; I only
carry them to please mother.And Jack pulled out a pair of red
mittens with the air of a boy used to giving away.
They are lovely warm, and they do fit. Must be too small for your
paws, so I'll knit you a new pair for Christmas, and make you wear
them, too,said Jillputting on the mittens with a nod of thanks
and ending her speech with a stamp of her rubber boots to enforce
Jack laughedand up they trudged to the spot whence the three
Now, which will you have?he askedwith a warning look in the
honest blue eyes which often unconsciously controlled naughty Jill
against her will.
That one!and the red mitten pointed firmly to the perilous path
You will do it?
Come on, then, and hold tight.
Jack's smile was gone nowand he waited without a word while
Jill tucked herself upthen took his place in frontand off they
went on the briefbreathless trip straight into the drift by the fence
I don't see anything very awful in that. Come up and have another.
Joe is watching us, and I d like to show him that we aren't afraid of
anything,said Jillwith a defiant glance at a distant boywho had
paused to watch the descent.
It is a regular 'go-bang, if that is what you like,answered Jack
as they plowed their way up again.
It is. You boys think girls like little mean coasts without any fun
or danger in them, as if we couldn't be brave and strong as well as
you. Give me three go-bangs and then we'll stop. My tumble
doesn't count, so give me two more and then I'll be good.
Jill took her seat as she spokeand looked up with such a rosy
pleading face that Jack gave in at onceand down they went again
raising a cloud of glittering snow-dust as they reined up in fine
style with their feet on the fence.
It's just splendid! Now, one more!cried Jillexcited by the
cheers of a sleighing party passing below.
Proud of his skillJack marched backresolved to make the third
gothe crowning achievement of the afternoonwhile Jill pranced
after him as lightly as if the big boots were the famous
seven-leagued onesand chattering about the candy-scrape and
whether there would be nuts or not.
So full were they of this important questionthat they piled on
hap-hazardand started off still talking so busily that Jill forgot to
hold tight and Jack to steer carefully. Alasfor the candy-scrape
that never was to be! Alasfor poor "Thunderbolt" blindly setting
forth on the last trip he ever made! And ohalasfor Jack and Jill
who wilfully chose the wrong road and ended their fun for the
winter! No one knew how it happenedbut instead of landing in
the driftor at the fencethere was a great crash against the barsa
dreadful plunge off the steep banka sudden scattering of girlboy
sledfenceearthand snowall about the roadtwo criesand then
I knew they'd do it!andstanding on the post where he had
perchedJoe waved his arms and shouted: "Smash-up! Smash-up!
Run! Run!" like a raven croaking over a battlefield when the fight
Down rushed boys and girls ready to laugh or cryas the case
might befor accidents will happen on the best-regulated
coasting-grounds. They found Jack sitting up looking about him
with a queerdazed expressionwhile an ugly cut on the forehead
was bleeding in a way which sobered the boys and frightened the
girls half out of their wits.
He's killed! He's killed!wailed Suehiding her face and
beginning to cry.
No, I m not. I'll be all right when I get my breath. Where's Jill?
asked Jackstoutlythough still too giddy to see straight.
The group about him openedand his comrade in misfortune was
discovered lying quietly in the snow with all the pretty color
shocked out of her face by the falland winking rapidlyas if half
stunned. But no wounds appearedand when asked if she was
deadshe answered in a vague sort of way
I guess not. is Jack hurt?
Broken his head,croaked Joestepping asidethat she might
behold the fallen hero vainly trying to look calm and cheerful with
red drops running down his cheek and a lump on his forehead.
Jill shut her eyes and waved the girls awaysayingfaintlyNever
mind me. Go and see to him.
Don't! I m all right,and Jack tried to get up in order to prove that
headers off a bank were mere trifles to him; but at the first
movement of the left leg he uttered a sharp cry of painand would
have fallen if Gus had not caught and gently laid him down.
What is it, old chap?asked Frankkneeling beside himreally
alarmed nowthe hurts seeming worse than mere bumpswhich
were common affairs among baseball playersand not worth much
I lit on my head, but I guess I've broken my leg. Don't frighten
mother,and Jack held fast to Frank's arm as he looked into the
anxious face bent over him; forthough the elder tyrannized over
the youngerthe brothers loved one another dearly.
Lift his head, Frank, while I tie my handkerchief round to stop the
bleeding,said a quiet voiceas Ed Devlin laid a handful of soft
snow on the wound; and Jack's face brightened as he turned to
thank the one big boy who never was rough with the small ones.
Better get him right home,advised Guswho stood by looking
onwith his little sisters Laura and Lotty clinging to him.
Take Jill, too, for it's my opinion she has broken her back. She
can't stir one bit,announced Molly Loowith a droll air of
triumphas if rather pleased than otherwise to have her patient hurt
the worse; for Jack's wound was very effectiveand Molly had a
taste for the tragic.
This cheerful statement was greeted with a wail from Susan and
howls from Boowho had earned that name from the ease with
whichon all occasionshe could burst into a dismal roar without
shedding a tearand stop as suddenly as he began.
Oh, I am so sorry! It was my fault; I shouldn't have let her do it,
It was all my fault; I made him. If I d broken every bone I've got,
it would serve me right. Don't help me, anybody; I m a wicked
thing, and I deserve to lie here and freeze and starve and die!
cried Jillpiling up punishments in her remorseful anguish of mind
But we want to help you, and we can settle about blame by and
by,whispered Merry with a kiss; for she adored dashing Jilland
never would own that she did wrong.
Here come the wood-sleds just in time. I'll cut away and tell one
of them to hurry up.Andfreeing himself from his sistersGus
went off at a great paceproving that the long legs carried a
sensible head as well as a kind heart.
As the first sled approachedan air of relief pervaded the agitated
partyfor it was driven by Mr. Granta bigbenevolent-looking
farmerwho surveyed the scene with the sympathetic interest of a
man and a father.
Had a little accident, have you? Well, that's a pretty likely place
for a spill. Tried it once myself and broke the bridge of my nose,
he saidtapping that massive feature with a laugh which showed
that fifty years of farming had not taken all the boy out of him.
Now then, let's see about this little chore, and lively, too, for it's
late, and these parties ought to be housed,he addedthrowing
down his whippushing back his capand nodding at the wounded
with a reassuring smile.
Jill first, please, sir,said Edthe gentle squire of dames
spreading his overcoat on the sled as eagerly as ever Raleigh laid
down his velvet cloak for a queen to walk upon.
All right. Just lay easy, my dear, and I won't hurt you a mite if I
can help it.
Careful as Mr. Grant wasJill could have screamed with pain as he
lifted her; but she set her lips and bore it with the courage of a
little Indian; for all the lads were looking onand Jill was proud to
show that a girl could bear as much as a boy. She hid her face in
the coat as soon as she was settledto hide the tears that would
comeand by the time Jack was placed beside hershe had quite a
little cistern of salt water stored up in Ed's coat-pocket.
Then the mournful procession set forthMr. Grant driving the
oxenthe girls clustering about the interesting invalids on the sled
while the boys came behind like a guard of honorleaving the hill
deserted by all but Joewho had returned to hover about the fatal
fenceand poor "Thunderbolt split asunder, lying on the bank to
mark the spot where the great catastrophe occurred.
Chapter 2 Two Penitents
Jack and Jill never cared to say much about the night which
followed the first coasting party of the season, for it was the
saddest and the hardest their short lives had ever known. Jack
suffered most in body; for the setting of the broken leg was such a
painful job, that it wrung several sharp cries from him, and made
Frank, who helped, quite weak and white with sympathy, when it
was over. The wounded head ached dreadfully, and the poor boy
felt as if bruised all over, for he had the worst of the fall. Dr.
Whiting spoke cheerfully of the case, and made so light of broken
legs, that Jack innocently asked if he should not be up in a week or
Wellno; it usually takes twenty-one days for bones to knitand
young ones make quick work of it answered the doctor, with a
last scientific tuck to the various bandages, which made Jack feel
like a hapless chicken trussed for the spit.
Twenty-one days! Three whole weeks in bed! I shouldn't call that
quick work groaned the dismayed patient, whose experience of
illness had been limited.
It is a forty days jobyoung manand you must make up your
mind to bear it like a hero. We will do our best; but next timelook
before you leapand save your bones. Good-night; you'll feel
better in the morning. No jigsremember"; and off went the busy
doctor for another look at Jillwho had been ordered to bed and
left to rest till the other case was attended to.
Anyone would have thought Jack's plight much the worsebut the
doctor looked more sober over Jill's hurt back than the boy's
compound fractures; and the poor little girl had a very bad quarter
of an hour while he was trying to discover the extent 0f the injury
Keep her quiet, and time will show how much damage is done,
was all he said in her hearing; but if she had known that he told
Mrs. Pecq he feared serious consequencesshe would not have
wondered why her mother cried as she rubbed the numb limbs and
paced the pillows so tenderly.
Jill suffered most in her mind; for only a sharp stab of pain now
and then reminded her of her body; but her remorseful little soul
gave her no peace for thinking of Jackwhose bruises and
breakages her lively fancy painted in the darkest colors.
Oh, don't be good to me, Mammy; I made him go, and now he's
hurt dreadfully, and may die; and it is all my fault, and everybody
ought to hate me,sobbed poor Jillas a neighbor left the room
after reporting in a minute manner how Jack screamed when his
leg was setand how Frank was found white as a sheetwith his
head under the pumpwhile Gus restored the tone of his friend's
nervesby pumping as if the house was on fire.
Whist, my lass, and go to sleep. Take a sup of the good wine Mrs.
Minot sent, for you are as cold as a clod, and it breaks my heart to
see my Janey so.
I can't go to sleep; I don't see how Jack's mother could send my
anything when I've half killed him. I want to be cold and ache and
have horrid things done to me. Oh, if I ever get out of this bed I'll
be the best girl in the world, to pay for this. See if I ain t!and Jill
gave such a decided nod that her tears flew all about the pillow
like a shower.
You d better begin at once, for you won't get out of that bed for a
long while, I m afraid, my lamb,sighed her motherunable to
conceal the anxiety that lay so heavy on her heart.
Am I hurt badly, Mammy?
I fear it, lass.
I'm glad of it; I ought to be worse than Jack, and I hope I am. I'll
bear it well, and be good right away. Sing, Mammy, and I'll try to
go to sleep to please you.
Jill shut her eyes with sudden and unusual meeknessand before
her mother had crooned half a dozen verses of an old balladthe
little black head lay still upon the pillowand repentant Jill was
fast asleep with a red mitten in her hand.
Mrs. Pecq was an Englishwoman who had left Montreal at the
death of her husbanda French Canadianand had come to live in
the tiny cottage which stood near Mrs. Minot's big house
separated only by an arbor-vitae hedge. A sadsilent personwho
had seen better daysbut said nothing about themand earned her
bread by sewingnursingwork in the factoryor anything that
came in her waybeing anxious to educate her little girl. Nowas
she sat beside the bed in the smallpoor roomthat hope almost
died within herfor here was the child laid up for months
probablyand the one ambition and pleasure of the solitary
woman's life was to see Janey Pecq's name over all the high marks
in the school-reports she proudly brought home.
She'll win through, please Heaven, and I'll see my lass a
gentlewoman yet, thanks to the good friend in yonder, who will
never let her want for care,thought the poor soullooking out into
the gloom where a long ray of light streamed from the great house
warm and comfortable upon the cottagelike the spirit of kindness
which made the inmates friends and neighbors.
Meantimethat other mother sat by her boy's bed as anxious but
with better hopefor Mrs. Minot made trouble sweet and helpful
by the way in which she bore it; and her boys were learning of her
how to find silver linings to the clouds that must come into the
Jack lay wide awakewith hot cheeksand throbbing headand all
sorts of queer sensations in the broken leg. The soothing potion he
had taken did not affect him yetand he tried to beguile the weary
time by wondering who came and went below. Gentle rings at the
front doorand mysterious tappings at the backhad been going on
all the evening; for the report of the accident had grown
astonishingly in its travelsand at eight o clock the general belief
was that Jack had broken both legsfractured his skulland lay at
the point of deathwhile Jill had dislocated one shoulderand was
bruised black and blue from top to toe. Such being the caseit is
no wonder that anxious playmates and neighbors haunted the
doorsteps of the two housesand that offers of help poured in.
Frankhaving tied up the bell and put a notice in the lighted
side-windowsayingGo to the back door,sat in the parlor
supported by his chumGuswhile Ed played softly on the piano
hoping to lull Jack to sleep. It did soothe himfor a very sweet
friendship existed between the tall youth and the lad of thirteen.
Ed went with the big fellowsbut always had a kind word for the
smaller boys; and affectionate Jacknever ashamed to show his
lovewas often seen with his arm round Ed's shoulderas they sat
together in the pleasant red parlorswhere all the young people
were welcome and Frank was king.
Is the pain any easier, my darling?asked Mrs. Minotleaning
over the pillowwhere the golden head lay quiet for a moment.
Not much. I forget it listening to the music. Dear old Ed is
playing all my favorite tunes, and it is very nice. I guess he feels
pretty sorry about me.
They all do. Frank could not talk of it. Gus wouldn't go home to
tea, he was so anxious to do something for us. Joe brought back
the bits of your poor sled, because he didn't like to leave them
lying round for anyone to carry off, he said, and you might like
them to remember your fall by.
Jack tried to laughbut it was rather a failurethough be managed
That was good of old Joe. I wouldn't lend him 'Thunderbolt for
fear he d hurt it. Couldn't have smashed it up better than I did,
could he? Don't think I want any pieces to remind me of that fall. I
just wish you d seen us, mother! It must have been a splendid spill
to look at, anyway.
No, thank you; I d rather not even try to imagine my precious boy
going heels over head down that dreadful hill. No more pranks of
that sort for some time, Jacky; and Mrs. Minot looked rather
pleased on the whole to have her venturesome bird safe under her
No coasting till some time in January. What a fool I was to do it!
Go-bangs always are dangerous, and that's the fun of the thing. Oh
Jack threw his arms about and frowned darklybut never said a
word of the wilful little baggage who had led him into mischief; he
was too much of a gentleman to tell on a girlthough it cost him an
effort to hold his tonguebecause Mamma's good opinion was very
precious to himand he longed to explain. She knew all about it
howeverfor Jill had been carried into the house reviling herself
for the mishapand even in the midst of her own anxiety for her
boyMrs. Minot understood the state of the case without more
words. So she now set his mind at rest by sayingquietly.
Foolish fun, as you see, dear. Another time, stand firm and help
Jill to control her headstrong will. When you learn to yield less and
she more, there will be no scrapes like this to try us all.
I'll remember, mother. I hate not to be obliging, but I guess it
would have saved us lots of trouble if I'd said No in the
beginning. I tried to, but she would go. Poor Jill! I'll take better
care of her next time. Is she very ill, Mamma?
I can tell you better to-morrow. She does not suffer much, and we
hope there is no great harm done.
I wish she had a nice place like this to be sick in. It must be very
poky in those little rooms,said Jackas his eye roved round the
large chamber where he lay so coseywarmand pleasantwith the
gay chintz curtains draping doors and windowsthe rosy carpet
comfortable chairsand a fire glowing in the grate.
I shall see that she suffers for nothing, so don't trouble your kind
heart about her to-night, but try to sleep; that's what you need,
answered his motherwetting the bandage on his foreheadand
putting a cool hand on the flushed cheeks.
Jack obediently closed his eyes and listened while the boys sang
The Sweet By and By,softening their rough young voices for his
sake till the music was as soft as a lullaby. He lay so still his
mother thought he was offbut presently a tear slipped out and
rolled down the red cheekwetting her hand as it passed.
My blessed boy, what is it?she whisperedwith a touch and a
tone that only mothers have.
The blue eyes opened wideand Jack's own sunshiny smile broke
through the tears that filled them as he said with a sniff
Everybody is so good to me I can't help making a noodle of
You are not a noodle!" cried Mammaresenting the epithet. "One
of the sweet things about pain and sorrow is that they show us how
well we are lovedhow much kindness there is in the worldand
how easily we can make others happy in the same way when they
need help and sympathy. Don't forget thatlittle son
Don't see how I canwith you to show me how nice it is. Kiss me
good-nightand then 'I'll be goodas Jill says."
Nestling his head upon his mother's armJack lay quiet tilllulled
by the music of his mateshe drowsed away into the dreamless
sleep which is Nurse Nature's healthiest soothing sirup for weary
souls and bodies.
Chapter 3 Ward No. I
For some daysnothing was seen and little was heard of the "dear
sufferers as the old ladies called them. But they were not
forgotten; the first words uttered when any of the young people
met were: How is Jack?" "Seen Jill yet?" and all waited with
impatience for the moment when they could be admitted to their
favorite matesmore than ever objects of interest now.
Meantimethe captives spent the first few days in sleeppainand
trying to accept the hard fact that school and play were done with
for months perhaps. But young spirits are wonderfully elastic and
soon cheer upand healthy young bodies heal fastor easily adapt
themselves to new conditions. So our invalids began to mend on
the fourth dayand to drive their nurses distracted with efforts to
amuse thembefore the first week was over.
The most successful attempt originated in Ward No. Ias Mrs.
Minot called Jack's apartmentand we will give our sympathizing
readers some idea of this placewhich became the stage whereon
were enacted many varied and remarkable scenes.
Each of the Minot boys had his own roomand there collected his
own treasures and trophiesarranged to suit his convenience and
taste. Frank's was full of booksmapsmachinerychemical
messesand geometrical drawingswhich adorned the walls like
intricate cobwebs. A big chairwhere he read and studied with his
heels higher than his heada basket of apples for refreshment at all
hours of the day or nightand an immense inkstandin which
several pens were always apparently bathing their feetwere the
principal ornaments of his scholastic retreat.
Jack's hobby was athletic sportsfor he was bent on having a
strong and active body for his happy little soul to live and enjoy
itself in. So a severe simplicity reigned in his apartment; in
summerespeciallyfor then his floor was barehis windows were
uncurtainedand the chairs uncushionedthe bed being as narrow
and hard as Napoleon's. The only ornaments were dumbbells
whipsbatsrodsskatesboxing-glovesa big bath-pan and a small
libraryconsisting chiefly of books on gameshorseshealth
huntingand travels. In winter his mother made things more
comfortable by introducing rugscurtainsand a fire. Jackalso
relented slightly in the severity of his trainingoccasionally
indulging in the national buckwheat cakeinstead of the prescribed
oatmeal porridgefor breakfastomitting his cold bath when the
thermometer was below zeroand dancing at nightinstead of
running a given distance by day.
Nowhoweverhe was a helpless captivegiven over to all sorts of
coddlinglazinessand luxuryand there was a droll mixture of
mirth and melancholy in his faceas he lay trussed up in bed
watching the comforts which had suddenly robbed his room of its
Spartan simplicity. A delicious couch was therewith Frank
reposing in its depthshalf hidden under several folios which he
was consulting for a history of the steam-enginethe subject of his
A white-covered table stood nearwith all manner of dainties set
forth in a way to tempt the sternest principles. Vases of flowers
bloomed on the chimney-piece gifts from anxious young ladies
left with their love. Frivolous story-books and picture-papers
strewed the bednow shrouded in effeminate chintz curtains
beneath which Jack lay like a wounded warrior in his tent. But the
saddest sight for our crippled athlete was a glimpsethrough a
half-opened doorat the beloved dumb-bellsbatsballs
boxing-glovesand snow-shoesall piled ignominiously away in
the bath-panmournfully recalling the fact that their day was over
nowat least for some time.
He was about to groan dismallywhen his eye fell on a sight which
made him swallow the groanand cough insteadas if it choked
him a little. The sight was his mother's faceas she sat in a low
chair rolling bandageswith a basket beside her in which were
piles of old linenlintplasterand other mattersneeded for the
dressing of wounds. As he lookedJack remembered how steadily
and tenderly she had stood by him all through the har4 times just
pastand how carefully she had bathed and dressed his wound each
day in spite of the effort it cost her to give him pain or even see
That's a better sort of strength than swinging twenty-pound
dumb-bells or running races; I guess I'll try for that kind, too, and
not howl or let her see me squirm when the doctor hurts,thought
the boyas he saw that gentle face so pale and tired with much
watching and anxietyyet so patientsereneand cheerfulthat it
was like sunshine.
Lie down and take a good nap, mother dear, I feel first-rate, and
Frank can see to me if I want anything. Do, now,he addedwith a
persuasive nod toward the couchand a boyish relish in stirring up
his lazy brother.
After some urgingMamma consented to go to her room for forty
winksleaving Jack in the care of Frankbegging him to be as
quiet as possible if the dear boy wished to sleepand to amuse him
if he did not.
Being worn outMrs. Minot lengthened her forty winks into a
three hours napand as the "dear boy" scorned reposeMr. Frank
had his hands full while on guard.
I'll read to you. Here's Watt, Arkwright, Fulton, and a lot of
capital fellows, with pictures that will do your heart good. Have a
bit, will you?asked the new nurseflapping the leaves invitingly
for Frank bad a passion for such thingsand drew steam-engines
all over his slateas Tommy Traddles drew hosts of skeletons
when low in his spirits.
I don't want any of your old boilers and stokers and whirligigs. I
m tired of reading, and want something regularly jolly,answered
Jackwho had been chasing white buffaloes with "The Hunters of
the West till he was a trifle tired and fractious.
Play cribbageeuchreanything you like"; and Frank obligingly
disinterred himself from under the foliosfeeling that it was hard
for a fellow to lie flat a whole week.
No fun; just two of us. Wish school was over, so the boys would
come in; doctor said I might see them now.
They'll be along by and by, and I'll hail them. Till then, what
shall we do? I'm your man for anything, only put a name to it.
Just wish I had a telegraph or a telephoneso I could talk to Jill.
Wouldn't it be fun to pipe across and get an answer!"
I'll make either you say; and Frank looked as if trifles of that sort
were to be had for the asking.
Could you, really?
We'll start the telegraph first, then you can send things over if you
like,said Frankprudently proposing the surest experiment.
Go ahead, then. I'd like that, and so would Jill, for I know she
wants to hear from me.
There's one trouble, though; I shall have to leave you alone for a
few minutes while I rig up the ropes; and Frank looked soberfor
he was a faithful boyand did not want to desert his post.
Oh, never mind; I won't want anything. If I'd o, I can pound for
And wake mother. I'll fix you a better way than that; andfull of
inventive geniusour young Edison spliced the poker to part of a
fishing-rod in a jiffymaking a long-handled hook which reached
across the room.
There's an arm for you; now hook away, and let's see how it
works,he saidhanding over the instrument to Jackwho
proceeded to show its unexpected capabilities by hooking the cloth
off the table in attempting to get his handkerchiefcatching Frank
by the hair when fishing for a bookand breaking a pane of glass in
trying to draw down the curtain.
It's so everlasting long, I can't manage it,laughed Jackas it
finally caught in his bed-hangingsand nearly pulled themring
and alldown upon his head.
Let it alone, unless you need something very much, and don't
bother about the glass. It's just what we want for the telegraph wire
or rope to go through. Keep still, and I'll have the thing running in
ten minutes; anddelighted with the jobFrank hurried away
leaving Jack to compose a message to send as soon as it was
What in the world is that flying across the Minots' yard a brown
hen or a boy's kite?exclaimed old Miss Hopkinspeering out of
her window at the singular performances going on in her opposite
FirstFrank appeared with a hatchet and chopped a clear space in
the hedge between his own house and the cottage; nexta clothes
line was passed through this aperture and fastened somewhere on
the other side; lastlya small covered basketslung on this rope
was seen hitching alongdrawn either way by a set of strings; then
as if satisfied with his jobFrank retiredwhistling "Hail
It's those children at their pranks again. I thought broken bones
wouldn't keep them out of mischief long,said the old lady
watching with great interest the mysterious basket travelling up
and down the rope from the big house to the cottage.
If she had seen what came and went over the wires of the "Great
International Telegraph she would have laughed till her
spectacles flew off her Roman nose. A letter from Jack, with a
large orange, went first, explaining the new enterprise:
Dear Jill-It's too bad you can't come over to see me. I am pretty
wellbut awful tired of keeping still. I want to see you ever so
much. Frank has fixed us a telegraphso we can write and send
things. Won't it be jolly! I can't look out to see him do it; butwhen
you pull your stringmy little bell ringsand I know a message is
coming. I send you an orange. Do you like gorver jelly? People
send in lots of goodiesand we will go halves. Good-by.
Away went the basketand in fifteen minutes it came back from
the cottage with nothing in it but the orange.
Hullo! Is she mad?asked Jackas Frank brought the despatch for
him to examine.
Butat the first touchthe hollow peel openedand out fell a letter
two gum-dropsand an owl made of a peanutwith round eyes
drawn at the end where the stem formed a funny beak. Two bits of
straw were the legsand the face looked so like Dr. Whiting that
both boys laughed at the sight.
That's so like Jill; she'd make fun if she was half dead. Let's see
what she says; and Jack read the little notewhich showed a sad
neglect of the spelling-book:
Dear Jacky-I can't stir and it's horrid. The telly graf is very nice
and we will have fun with it. I never ate any gorver jelly. The
orange was first rate. Send me a book to read. All about bears and
ships and crockydiles. The doctor was coming to see you, so I sent
him the quickest way. Molly Loo says it is dreadful lonesome at
school without us. Yours truly,
Jack immediately despatched the book and a sample of guava
jellywhich unfortunately upset on the wayto the great detriment
of "The Wild Beasts of Asia and Africa." Jill promptly responded
with the loan of a tiny black kittenwho emerged spitting and
scratchingto Jack's great delight; and he was cudgelling his brains
as to how a fat white rabbit could be transportedwhen a shrill
whistle from without saved Jill from that inconvenient offering.
It's the fellows; do you want to see them?asked Frankgazing
down with calm superiority upon the three eager faces which
looked up at him.
Guess I'd o!and Jack promptly threw the kitten overboard
scorning to be seen by any manly eye amusing himself with such
Bang! went the front door; tramptramptrampcame six booted
feet up the stairs; andas Frank threw wide the doorthree large
beings paused on the threshold to deliver the courteous "Hullo!"
which is the established greeting among boys on all social
Come along, old fellows; I'm ever so glad to see you!cried the
invalidwith such energetic demonstrations of the arms that he
looked as if about to fly or crowlike an excited young cockerel.
How are you, Major?
Does the leg ache much, Jack?
Mr. Phipps says you'll have to pay for the new rails.
With these characteristic greetingsthe gentlemen cast away their
hats and sat downall grinning cheerfullyand all with eyes
irresistibly fixed upon the daintieswhich proved too much for the
politeness of ever-hungry boys.
Help yourselves,said Jackwith a hospitable wave. "All the dear
old ladies in town have been sending in nice thingsand I can't
begin to eat them up. Lend a hand and clear away this
lotor we shall have to throw them out of the window. Bring on
the doughnuts and the tarts and the shaky stuff in the entry closet
Frankand let's have a lark."
No sooner said than done. Gus took the tartsJoe the doughnuts
Ed the jellyand Frank suggested "spoons all round" for the Italian
cream. A few trifles in the way of custardfruitand wafer biscuits
were not worth mentioning; but every dish was soon emptiedand
Jack saidas he surveyed the scene of devastation with great
Call again to-morrow, gentlemen, and we will have another bout.
Free lunches at ~ P.M. till further notice. Now tell me all the
For half an hourfive tongues went like mill clappersand there is
no knowing when they would have stopped if the little bell had not
suddenly rung with a violence that made them jump.
That's Jill; see what she wants, Frank; and while his brother sent
off the basketJack told about the new inventionand invited his
mates to examine and admire.
They did soand shouted with merriment when the next despatch
from Jill arrived. A pasteboard jumping-jackwith one leg done up
in cotton-wool to preserve the likenessand a great lump of
molasses candy in a brown paperwith accompanying note:
Dear Sir-I saw the boys go in, and know you are having a nice
time, so I send over the candy Molly Loo and Merry brought me.
Mammy says I can't eat it, and it will all melt away if I keep it.
Also a picture of Jack Minot, who will dance on one leg and
waggle the other, and make you laugh. I wish I could come, too.
Don't you hate grewel? I'do. In haste,
Let's all send her a letter,proposed Jackand out came pensink
paperand the lampand everyone fell to scribbling. A droll
collection was the resultfor Frank drew a picture of the fatal fall
with broken rails flying in every directionJack with his head
swollen to the size of a balloonand Jill in two pieceswhile the
various boys and girls were hit off with a sly skill that gave Gus
legs like a storkMolly Loo hair several yards longand Boo a
series of visible howls coming out of an immense mouth in the
shape of o s. The oxen were particularly goodfor their horns
branched like those of the mooseand Mr. Grant had a patriarchal
beard which waved in the breeze as he bore the wounded girl to a
sled very like a funeral pyrethe stakes being crowned with big
mittens like torches.
You ought to be an artist. I never saw such a dabster as you are.
That's the very moral of Joe, all in a bunch on the fence, with a
blot to show how purple his nose was,said Gusholding up the
sketch for general criticism and admiration.
I'd rather have a red nose than legs like a grasshopper; so you
needn't twit, Daddy,growled Joequite unconscious that a blot
actually did adorn his noseas he labored over a brief despatch.
The boys enjoyed the jokeand one after the other read out his
message to the captive lady:
Dear Jill-Sorry you ain't here. Great fun. Jack pretty lively. Laura
and Lot would send love if they knew of the chance. Fly round and
Dear Gilliflower-Hope you are pretty comfortable in your
'dungeon cell. Would you like a serenade when the moon comes?
Hope you will soon be up again, for we miss you very much. Shall
be very happy to help in anyway I can. Love to your mother. Your
Dear Madam-I am happy to tell you that we are all welland hope
you are the same. I gave Jem Cox a licking because he went to
your desk. You had better send for your books. You won't have to
pay for the sled or the fence. Jack says he will see to it. We have
been having a spread over here. First-rate things. I wouldn't mind
breaking a legif I had such good grub and no chores to do. No
more nowfrom yourswith esteem
Joseph P. Flint"
Joe thought that an elegant epistlehaving copied portions of it
from the "Letter Writer and proudly read it off to the boys, who
assured him that Jill would be much impressed.
NowJackhurry up and let us send the lot offfor we must go
said Gus, as Frank put the letters in the basket, and the clatter of
tea-things was heard below.
I'm not going to show mine. It's private and you mustn't look
answered Jack, patting down an envelope with such care that no
one had a chance to peep.
But Joe had seen the little note copied, and while the others were
at the window working the telegraph he caught up the original,
carelessly thrust by Jack under the pillow, and read it aloud before
anyone knew what he was about.
My Dear-I wish I could send you some of my good times. As I
can'tI send you much loveand I hope you will try and be patient
as I am going tofor it was our faultand we must not make a fuss
now. Ain't mothers sweet? Mine is coming over to-morrow to see
you and tell me how you are. This round thing is a kiss for
Isn't that spoony? You d better hide your face, I think. He's getting
to be a regular mollycoddle, isn't he?jeered Joeas the boys
laughedand then grew soberseeing Jack's head buried in the
bedclothesafter sending a pillow at his tormentor.
It nearly hit Mrs. Minotcoming in with her patient's tea on a tray
and at sight of her the guests hurriedly took leaveJoe nearly
tumbling downstairs to escape from Frankwho would have
followedif his mother had not said quicklyStay, and tell me
what is the matter.
Only teasing Jack a bit. Don't be mad, old boy, Joe didn't mean
any harm, and it was rather soft, now wasn't it?asked Frank
trying to appease the wounded feelings of his brother.
I charged you not to worry him. Those boys were too much for the
poor dear, and I ought not to have left him,said Mammaas she
vainly endeavored to find and caress the yellow head burrowed so
far out of sight that nothing but one red ear was visible.
He liked it, and we got on capitally till Joe roughed him about
Jill. Ah, Joe's getting it now! I thought Gus and Ed would do that
little job for me,added Frankrunning to the window as the sound
of stifled cries and laughter reached him.
The red ear heard alsoand Jack popped up his head to askwith
'What are they doing to him?"
Rolling him in the snow, and he's howling like fun.
Serves him right,muttered Jackwith a frown. Thenas a wail
arose suggestive of an unpleasant mixture of snow in the mouth
and thumps on the backhe burst out laughingand said
good-naturedlyGo and stop them, Frank; I won't mind, only tell
him it was a mean trick. Hurry! Gus is so strong he doesn't know
how his pounding hurts.
Off ran Frankand Jack told his wrongs to his mother. She
sympathized heartilyand saw no harm in the affectionate little
notewhich would please Jilland help her to bear her trials
It isn't silly to be fond of her, is it? She is so nice and funny, and
tries to be good, and likes me, and I won't be ashamed of my
friends, if folks do laugh,protested Jackwith a rap of his
No, dear, it is quite kind and proper, and I'd rather have you play
with a merry little girl than with rough boys till you are big enough
to hold your own,answered Mammaputting the cup to his lips
that the reclining lad might take his broma without spilling.
Pooh! I don't mean that; I'm strong enough now to take care of
myself,cried Jackstoutly. "I can thrash Joe any dayif I like. Just
look at my arm; there's muscle for you!" and up went a sleeveto
the great danger of overturning the trayas the boy proudly
displayed his biceps and expanded his chestboth of which were
very fine for a lad of his years. "If I'd been on my legshe
wouldn't have dared to insult meand it was cowardly to hit a
fellow when he was down.
Mrs. Minot wanted to laugh at Jack's indignationbut the bell rang
and she had to go and pull in the basketmuch amused at the new
Burning to distinguish herself in the eyes of the big boysJill had
sent over a tallred flannel night-capwhich she had been making
for some proposed Christmas playsand added the following verse
for she was considered a gifted rhymester at the game parties:
When it comes night,
We put out the light.
Some blow with a puff,
Some turn down and snuff;
But neat folks prefer
A nice extinguisher.
So here I send you back
One to put on Mr. Jack.
Now, I call that regularly smart; not one of us could do it, and I
just wish Joe was here to see it. I want to send once more,
something good for tea; she hates gruel so; and the last despatch
which the Great International Telegraph carried that day was a
baked apple and a warm muffinwith "J. M.'s best regards."
Chapter 4 WARD NO. 2.
I do believe the child will fret herself into a fever, mem, and I m
clean distraught to know what to do for her. She never used to
mind trifles, but now she frets about the oddest things, and I can't
change them. This wall-paper is well enough, but she has taken a
fancy that the spots on it look like spiders, and it makes her
nervous. I've no other warm place to put her, and no money for a
new paper. Poor lass! There are hard times before her, I'm fearing.
Mrs. Pecq said this in a low voice to Mrs. Minot, who came in as
often as she could, to see what her neighbor needed; for both
mothers were anxious, and sympathy drew them to one another.
While one woman talked, the other looked about the little room,
not wondering in the least that Jill found it hard to be contented
there. It was very neat, but so plain that there was not even a
picture on the walls, nor an ornament upon the mantel, except the
necessary clock, lamp, and match-box. The paper was ugly, being
a deep buff with a brown figure that did look very like spiders
sprawling over it, and might well make one nervous to look at day
Jill was asleep in the folding chair Dr. Whiting had sent, with a
mattress to make it soft. The back could be raised or lowered at
will; but only a few inches had been gained as yet, and the thin
hair pillow was all she could bear. She looked very pretty as she
lay, with dark lashes against the feverish cheeks, lips apart, and a
cloud of curly black locks all about the face pillowed on one arm.
She seemed like a brilliant little flower in that dull place for the
French blood in her veins gave her a color, warmth, and grace
which were very charming. Her natural love of beauty showed
itself in many ways: a red ribbon had tied up her hair, a gay but
faded shawl was thrown over the bed, and the gifts sent her were
arranged with care upon the table by her side among her own few
toys and treasures. There was something pathetic in this childish
attempt to beautify the poor place, and Mrs. Minot's eyes were full
as she looked at the tired woman, whose one joy and comfort lay
there in such sad plight.
My dear soulcheer upand we will help one another through the
hard times she said, with a soft hand on the rough one, and a look
that promised much.
Please Godwe willmem! With such good friendsI never
should complain. I try not to do itbut it breaks my heart to see my
little lass spoiled for lifemost like"; and Mrs. Pecq pressed the
kind hand with a despondent sigh.
We won't say, or even think, that, yet. Everything is possible to
youth and health like Janey s. We must keep her happy, and time
will do the rest, I'm sure. Let us begin at once, and have a surprise
for her when she wakes.
As she spokeMrs. Minot moved quietly about the roompinning
the pages of several illustrated papers against the wall at the foot
of the bedand placing to the best advantage the other comforts
she had brought.
Keep up your heart, neighbor. I have an idea in my head which I
think will help us all, if I can carry it out,she saidcheerilyas she
wentleaving Mrs. Pecq to sew on Jack's new night-gownswith
swift fingersand the grateful wish that she might work for these
good friends forever.
As if the whispering and rustling had disturbed herJill soon began
to stirand slowly opened the eyes which had closed so wearily on
the dull December afternoon. The bare wall with its brown spiders
no longer confronted herbut the colored print of a little girl
dancing to the tune her father was playing on a guitarwhile a
stately ladywith satin dressruffand powderstood looking on
well pleased. The quaint figurein its belaced frockquilted
petticoatand red-heeled shoesseemed to come tripping toward
her in such a life-like waythat she almost saw the curls blow
backheard the rustle of the rich brocadeand caught the sparkle
of the little maid's bright eyes.
Oh, how pretty! Who sent them?asked Jilleagerlyas her eye
glanced along the wallseeing other new and interesting things
beyond: an elephant-hunta ship in full saila horse-raceand a
The good fairy who never comes empty-handed. Look round a bit
and you will see more pretties all for you, my dearie; and her
mother pointed to a bunch of purple grapes in a green leaf platea
knot of bright flowers pinned on the white curtainand a gay little
double gown across the foot of the bed.
Jill clapped her handsand was enjoying her new pleasureswhen
in came Merry and Molly Loowith Booof coursetrotting after
her like a fat and amiable puppy. Then the good times began; the
gown was put onthe fruit tastedand the pictures were studied
like famous works of art.
It's a splendid plan to cover up that hateful wall. I'd stick pictures
all round and have a gallery. That reminds me! Up in the garret at
our house is a box full of old fashion-books my aunt left. I often
look at them on rainy days, and they are very funny. I'll go this
minute and get everyone. We can pin them up, or make paper
dolls; and away rushed Molly Loowith the small brother
waddling behindforwhen he lost sight of herhe was desolate
The girls had fits of laughter over the queer costumes of years
gone byand put up a splendid procession of ladies in full skirts
towering hatspointed slipperspowdered hairsimpering faces
and impossible waists.
I do think this bride is perfectly splendid, the long train and vail
are so sweet,said Jillrevelling in fine clothes as she turned from
one plate to another.
I like the elephants best, and I'd give anything to go on a hunt
like that!cried Molly Loowho rode cowsdrove any horse she
could gethad nine catsand was not afraid of the biggest dog that
I fancy 'The Dancing Lesson ; it is so sort of splendid, with the
great windows, gold chairs, and fine folks. Oh, I would like to live
in a castle with a father and mother like that,said Merrywho was
romanticand found the old farmhouse on the bill a sad trial to her
high-flown ideas of elegance.
Now, that ship, setting out for some far-away place, is more to my
mind. I weary for home now and then, and mean to see it again
some day; and Mrs. Pecq looked longingly at the English ship
though it was evidently outward bound. Thenas if reproaching
herself for discontentshe added: "It looks like those I used to see
going off to India with a load of missionaries. I came near going
myself oncewith a lady bound for Siam; but I went to Canada
with her sisterand here I am."
I'd like to be a missionary and go where folks throw their babies
to the crocodiles. I'd watch and fish them out, and have a school,
and bring them up, and convert all the people till they knew
better,said warm-hearted Molly Loowho befriended every
abused animal and forlorn child she met.
We needn't go to Africa to be missionaries; they have 'em nearer
home and need 'em, too. In all the big cities there are a many, and
they have their hands full with the poor, the wicked, and the
helpless. One can find that sort of work anywhere, if one has a
mind,said Mrs. Pecq.
I wish we had some to do here. I'd so like to go round with
baskets of tea and rice, and give out tracts and talk to people.
Wouldn't you, girls?asked Mollymuch taken with the new idea.
It would be rather nice to have a society all to ourselves, and have
meetings and resolutions and things,answered Merrywho was
fond of little ceremoniesand always went to the sewing circle
with her mother.
We wouldn't let the boys come in. We d have it a secret society,
as they'd o their temperance lodge, and we d have badges and
pass-words and grips. It would be fun if we can only get some
heathen to work at!cried Jillready for fresh enterprises of every
I can tell you someone to begin on right away,said her mother
nodding at her. "As wild a little savage as I'd wish to see. Take
her in handand make a pretty-mannered lady of her. Begin at
homemy lassand you'll find missionary work enough for a
Now, Mammy, you mean me! Well, I will begin; and I'll be so
good, folks won't know me. Being sick makes naughty children
behave in story-books, I'll see if live ones can t; and Jill put on
such a sanctified face that the girls laughed and asked for their
missions alsothinking they would be the same.
You, Merry, might do a deal at home helping mother, and setting
the big brothers a good example. One little girl in a house can do
pretty much as she will, especially if she has a mind to make plain
things nice and comfortable, and not long for castles before she
knows how to do her own tasks well,was the first unexpected
Merry coloredbut took the reproof sweetlyresolving to do what
she couldand surprised to find how many ways seemed open to
her after a few minutes thought.
Where shall I begin? I'm not afraid of a dozen crocodiles after
Miss Bat; and Molly Loo looked about her with a fierce air
having had practice in battles with the old lady who kept her
Well, dear, you haven't far to look for as nice a little heathen as
you d wish; and Mrs. Pecq glanced at Boowho sat on the floor
staring hard at themattracted by the dread word "crocodile." He
had a cold and no handkerchiefhis little hands were red with
chilblainshis clothes shabbyhe had untidy darns in the knees of
his stockingsand a head of tight curls that evidently had not been
combed for some time.
Yes, I know he is, and I try to keep him decent, but I forget, and
he hates to be fixed, and Miss Bat doesn't care, and father laughs
when I talk about it.
Poor Molly Loo looked much ashamed as she made excusestrying
at the same time to mend matters by seizing Boo and dusting him
all over with her handkerchiefgiving a pull at his hair as if ringing
bellsand then dumping him down again with the despairing
exclamation: "Yeswe re a pair of heathensand there's no one to
save us if I don't."
That was true enough; for Molly's father was a busy mancareless
of everything but his millsMiss Bat was old and lazyand felt as
if she might take life easy after serving the motherless children for
many years as well as she knew how. Molly was beginning to see
how much amiss things were at homeand old enough to feel
mortifiedthoughas yetshe had done nothing to mend the matter
except be kind to the little boy.
You will, my dear,answered Mrs. Pecqencouraginglyfor she
knew all about it. "Now you ve each got a missionlet us see how
well you will get on. Keep it secretif you likeand report once a
week. I'll be a memberand we'll do great things yet."
We won't begin till after Christmas; there is so much to do, we
never shall have time for any more. Don't tell, and we'll start fair
at New Year s, if not before,said Jilltaking the lead as usual.
Then they went on with the gay ladieswho certainly were heathen
enough in dress to be in sad need of conversion to common-sense
I feel as if I was at a party,said Jillafter a pause occupied in
surveying her gallery with great satisfactionfor dress was her
delightand here she had every conceivable style and color.
Talking of parties, isn't it too bad that we must give up our
Christmas fun? Can't get on without you and Jack, so we are not
going to do a thing, but just have our presents,said Merrysadly
as they began to fit different heads and bodies togetherto try droll
I shall be all well in a fortnight, I know; but Jack won t, for it will
take more than a month to mend his poor leg. Maybe, they will
have a dance in the boys big room, and he can look on,suggested
Jillwith a glance at the dancing damsel on the wallfor she dearly
loved itand never guessed how long it would be before her light
feet would keep time to music again.
You d better give Jack a hint about the party. Send over some
smart ladies, and say they have come to his Christmas ball,
proposed audacious Molly Looalways ready for fun.
So they put a preposterous green bonnettop-heavy with plumes
on a little lady in yellowwho sat in a carriage; the lady beside her
in winter costume of velvet pelisse and ermine boawas fitted to a
bride's head with its orange flowers and veiland these works of
art were sent over to Jacklabelled "Miss Laura and Lotty Burton
going to the Minots' Christmas balI" a piece of naughtiness on
Jill's partfor she knew Jack liked the pretty sisterswhose gentle
manners made her own wild ways seem all the more blamable.
No answer came for a long timeand the girls had almost forgotten
their joke in a game of Letterswhen "Tingletangle!" went the
belland the basket came in heavily laden. A roll of colored papers
was tied outsideand within was a box that rattleda green and
silver horna roll of narrow ribbonsa spool of strong threadsome
large needlesand a note from Mrs. Minot:
Dear Jill-I think of having a Christmas tree so that our invalids
can enjoy it, and all your elegant friends are cordially invited.
Knowing that you would like to help, I send some paper for
sugar-plum horns and some beads for necklaces. They will
brighten the tree and please the girls for themselves or their dolls.
Jack sends you a horn for a pattern, and will you make a
ladder-necklace to show him how? Let me know if you need
Yours in haste,
She knew what the child would like, bless her kind heart,said
Mrs. Pecq to herselfand something brighter than the most silvery
bead shone on Jack's shirt-sleeveas she saw the rapture of Jill
over the new work and the promised pleasure.
Joyful cries greeted the opening of the boxfor bunches of
splendid large bugles appeared in all colorsand a lively discussion
went on as to the best contrasts. Jill could not refuse to let her
friends share the pretty workand soon three necklaces glittered on
three necksas each admired her own choice.
I'd be willing to hurt my back dreadfully, if I could lie and do
such lovely things all day,said Merryas she reluctantly put down
her needle at lastfor home duties waited to be doneand looked
more than ever distasteful after this new pleasure.
So would I! Oh, do you think Mrs. Minot will let you fill the
horns when they are done? I'd love to help you then. Be sure you
send for me!cried Molly Looarching her neck like a proud
pigeon to watch the glitter of her purple and gold necklace on her
I'm afraid you couldn't be trusted, you love sweeties so, and I m
sure Boo couldn't. But I'll see about it,replied Jillwith a
The mention of the boy recalled him to their mindsand looking
round they found him peacefully absorbed in polishing up the floor
with Molly's pocket-handkerchief and oil from the little
machine-can. Being torn from this congenial laborhe was carried
off shining with grease and roaring lustily.
But Jill did not mind her loneliness nowand sang like a happy
canary while she threaded her sparkling beadsor hung the gay
horns to dryready f or their cargoes of sweets. So Mrs. Minot's
recipe for sunshine proved successfuland mother-wit made the
wintry day a bright and happy one for both the little prisoners.
Chapter 5 Secrets
There were a great many clubs in Harmony Villagebut as we
intend to interest ourselves with the affairs of the young folks only
we need not dwell upon the intellectual amusements of the elders.
In summerthe boys devoted themselves to baseballthe girls to
boatingand all got rosystoutand strongin these healthful
exercises. In winterthe lads had their debating clubthe lasses a
dramatic ditto. At the formerastonishing bursts of oratory were
heard; at the lattereverything was boldly attemptedfrom Romeo
and Juliet to Mother Goose's immortal melodies. The two clubs
frequently met and mingled their attractions in a really entertaining
mannerfor the speakers made good actorsand the young
actresses were most appreciative listeners to the eloquence of each
Great plans had been afoot for Christmas or New Yearbut when
the grand catastrophe put an end to the career of one of the best
spouters,and caused the retirement of the favorite "singing
chambermaid the affair was postponed till February, when
Washington's birthday was always celebrated by the patriotic town,
where the father of his country once put on his nightcap, or took
off his boots, as that ubiquitous hero appears to have done in every
part of the United States.
Meantime the boys were studying Revolutionary characters, and
the girls rehearsing such dramatic scenes as they thought most
appropriate and effective for the 22d. In both of these attempts
they were much helped by the sense and spirit of Ralph Evans, a
youth of nineteen, who was a great favorite with the young folks,
not only because he was a good, industrious fellow, who supported
his grandmother, but also full of talent, fun, and ingenuity. It was
no wonder everyone who really knew him liked him, for he could
turn his hand to anything, and loved to do it. If the girls were in
despair about a fire-place when acting The Cricket on the
Hearth he painted one, and put a gas-log in it that made the kettle
really boil, to their great delight. If the boys found the interest of
their club flagging, Ralph would convulse them by imitations of
the Member from Cranberry Centre or fire them with speeches
of famous statesmen. Charity fairs could not get on without him,
and in the store where he worked he did many an ingenious job,
which made him valued for his mechanical skill, as well as for his
energy and integrity.
Mrs. Minot liked to have him with her sons, because they also
were to paddle their own canoes by and by, and she believed that,
rich or poor, boys make better men for learning to use the talents
they possess, not merely as ornaments, but tools with which to
carve their own fortunes; and the best help toward this end is an
example of faithful work, high aims, and honest living. So Ralph
came often, and in times of trouble was a real rainy-day friend.
Jack grew very fond of him during his imprisonment, for the good
youth ran in every evening to get commissions, amuse the boy with
droll accounts of the day's adventures, or invent lifts, bed-tables,
and foot-rests for the impatient invalid. Frank found him a sure
guide through the mechanical mysteries which he loved, and spent
many a useful half-hour discussing cylinders, pistons, valves, and
balance-wheels. Jill also came in for her share of care and comfort;
the poor little back lay all the easier for the air-cushion Ralph got
her, and the weary headaches found relief from the spray atomizer,
which softly distilled its scented dew on the hot forehead till she
Round the beds of Jack and Jill met and mingled the schoolmates
of whom our story treats. Never, probably, did invalids have gayer
times than our two, after a week of solitary confinement; for
school gossip crept in, games could not be prevented, and
Christmas secrets were concocted in those rooms till they were
regular conspirators dens, when they were not little Bedlams.
After the horn and bead labors were over, the stringing of pop-corn
on red, and cranberries on white, threads, came next, and Jack and
Jill often looked like a new kind of spider in the pretty webs hung
about them, till reeled off to bide their time in the Christmas
closet. Paper flowers followed, and gay garlands and bouquets
blossomed, regardless of the snow and frost without. Then there
was a great scribbling of names, verses, and notes to accompany
the steadily increasing store of odd parcels which were collected at
the Minots', for gifts from everyone were to ornament the tree, and
contributions poured in as the day drew near.
But the secret which most excited the young people was the deep
mystery of certain proceedings at the Minot house. No one but
Frank, Ralph, and Mamma knew what it was, and the two boys
nearly drove the others distracted by the tantalizing way in which
they hinted at joys to come, talked strangely about birds, went
measuring round with foot-rules, and shut themselves up in the
Boys Den, as a certain large room was called. This seemed to be
the centre of operations, but beyond the fact of the promised tree
no ray of light was permitted to pass the jealously guarded doors,
Strange men with paste-pots and ladders went in, furniture was
dragged about, and all sorts of boyish lumber was sent up garret
and down cellar. Mrs. Minot was seen pondering over heaps of
green stuff, hammering was heard, singular bundles were
smuggled upstairs, flowering plants betrayed their presence by
whiffs of fragrance when the door was opened, and Mrs. Pecq was
caught smiling all by herself in a back bedroom, which usually was
shut up in winter.
They are going to have a playafter alland that green stuff was
the curtain said Molly Loo, as the girls talked it over one day,
when they sat with their backs turned to one another, putting last
stitches in certain bits of work which had to be concealed from all
eyes, though it was found convenient to ask one another's taste as
to the color, materials, and sizes of these mysterious articles.
I think it is going to be a dance. I heard the boys doing their steps
when I went in last evening to find out whether Jack liked blue or
yellow bestso I could put the bow on his pen-wiper declared
Merry, knitting briskly away at the last of the pair of pretty white
bed-socks she was making for Jill right under her inquisitive little
They wouldn't have a party of that kind without Jack and me. It is
only an extra nice treeyou see if it isn't answered Jill from
behind the pillows which made a temporary screen to hide the
toilet mats she was preparing for all her friends.
Everyone of you is wrongand you d better rest easyfor you
won't find out the best part of ittry as you may." And Mrs. Pecq
actually chuckled as shetooworked away at some bits of muslin
with her back turned to the very unsocial-looking group.
Well, I don't care, we ve got a secret all our own, and won't ever
tell, will we?cried Jillfalling back on the Home Missionary
Societythough it was not yet begun.
Never!answered the girlsand all took great comfort in the idea
that one mystery would not be cleared upeven at Christmas.
Jack gave up guessingin despairafter he had suggested a new
dining-room where he could eat with the familya private school
in which his lessons might go on with a tutoror a theatre for the
production of the farces in which he delighted.
It is going to be used to keep something in that you are very fond
of,said Mammataking pity on him at last.
Ducks?asked Jackwith a half pleasedhalf puzzled airnot
quite seeing where the water was to come from.
Frank exploded at the ideaand added to the mystification by
There will be one little duck and one great donkey in it.Then
fearing he had told the secrethe ran offquacking and braying
It is to be used for creatures that I, too, am fond of, and you know
neither donkeys nor ducks are favorities of mine,said Mamma
with a demure expressionas she sat turning over old clothes for
the bundles that always went to poor neighborswith a little store
of goodiesat this time of the year.
I know! I know! It is to be a new ward for more sick folks, isn't it,
now?cried Jackwith what he thought a great proof of
I don't see how I could attend to many more patients till this one
is off my hands,answered Mammawith a queer smileadding
quicklyas if she too was afraid of letting the cat out of the bag:
That reminds me of a Christmas I once spent among the hospitals
and poor-houses of a great city with a good lady who, for thirty
years, had made it her mission to see that these poor little souls
had one merry day. We gave away two hundred dolls, several great
boxes of candy and toys, besides gay pictures, and new clothes to
orphan children, sick babies, and half-grown innocents. Ah, my
boy, that was a day to remember all my life, to make me doubly
grateful for my blessings, and very glad to serve the helpless and
afflicted, as that dear woman did.
The look and tone with which the last words were uttered
effectually turned Jack's thoughts from the great secretand started
another small onefor he fell to planning what he would buy with
his pocket-money to surprise the little Pats and Biddies who were
to have no Christmas tree.
Chapter 6 Surprises
Is it pleasant?was the question Jill asked before she was fairly
awake on Christmas morning.
Yes, dear; as bright as heart could wish. Now eat a bit, and then
I'll make you nice for the day's pleasure. I only hope it won't be too
much for you,answered Mrs. Pecqbustling abouthappyyet
anxiousfor Jill was to be carried over to Mrs. Minot sand it was
her first attempt at going out since the accident.
It seemed as if nine o clock would never comeand Jillwith
wraps all readylay waiting in a fever of impatience for the
doctor's visitas he wished to superintend the moving. At last he
camefound all promisingand having bundled up his small
patientcarried herwith Frank's helpin her chair-bed to the
ox-sledwhich was drawn to the next doorand Miss Jill landed in
the Boys Den before she had time to get either cold or tired. Mrs.
Minot took her things off with a cordial welcomebut Jill never
said a wordforafter one exclamationshe lay staring about her
dumb with surprise and delight at what she saw.
The great room was entirely changed; for now it looked like a
gardenor one of the fairy scenes children lovewhere in-doors
and out-of-doors are pleasantly combined. The ceiling was pale
bluelike the sky; the walls were covered with a paper like a rustic
trellisup which climbed morning-glories so naturally that the
many-colored bells seemed dancing in the wind. Birds and
butterflies flew among themand here and therethrough arches in
the trellisone seemed to look into a sunny summer world
contrasting curiously with the wintry landscape lying beyond the
real windowsfestooned with evergreen garlandsand curtained
only by stands of living flowers. A green drugget covered the floor
like grassrustic chairs from the garden stood aboutand in the
middle of the room a handsome hemlock waited for its pretty
burden. A Yule-log blazed on the wide hearthand over the
chimney-pieceframed in hollyshone the words that set all hearts
to dancingMerry Christmas!
Do you like it, dear? This is our surprise for you and Jack, and
here we mean to have good times together,said Mrs. Minotwho
had stood quietly enjoying the effect of her work.
Oh, it is so lovely I don't know what to say!and Jill put up both
armsas words failed herand grateful kisses were all she had to
Can you suggest anything more to add to the pleasantness?asked
the gentle ladyholding the small hands in her ownand feeling
well repaid by the child's delight.
Only Jack; and Jill's laugh was good to hearas she glanced up
with merryyet wistful eyes.
You are right. We'll have him in at once, or he will come hopping
on one leg; and away hurried his motherlaughingtoofor
whistlesshoutsthumpsand violent demonstrations of all kinds
had been heard from the room where Jack was raging with
impatiencewhile he waited for his share of the surprise.
Jill could hardly lie still when she heard the roll of another
chair-bed coming down the hailits passage enlivened with cries of
Starboard! Port! Easy now! Pull away!from Ralph and Frankas
they steered the recumbent Columbus on his first voyage of
Well, I call that handsome!was Jack's exclamationwhen the
full beauty of the scene burst upon his view. Then he forgot all
about it and gave a whoop of pleasurefor there beside the fire was
an eager facetwo hands beckoningand Jill's voice crying
I'm here! I'm here! Oh, do come, quick!Down the long room
rattled the chairJack cheering all the wayand brought up beside
the other oneas the long-parted friends exclaimedwith one
Isn't this jolly!
It certainly did look sofor Ralph and Frank danced a wild sort of
fandango round the treeDr. Whiting stood and laughedwhile the
two mothers beamed from the door-wayand the childrennot
knowing whether to laugh or to crycompromised the matter by
clapping their hands and shoutingMerry Christmas to
everybody!like a pair of little maniacs.
Then they all sobered downand the busy ones went off to the
various duties of the dayleaving the young invalids to repose and
enjoy themselves together.
How nice you look,said Jillwhen they had duly admired the
So do you,gallantly returned Jackas he surveyed her with
They did look very nicethough happiness was the principal
beautifier. Jill wore a red wrapperwith the most brilliant of all the
necklaces sparkling at her throatover a nicely crimped frill her
mother had made in honor of the day. All the curly black hair was
gathered into a red netand a pair of smart little moccasins
covered the feet that had not stepped for many a weary day. Jack
was not so gaybut had made himself as fine as circumstances
would permit. A gray dressing-gownwith blue cuffs and collar
was very becoming to the blonde youth; an immaculate shirtbest
studssleeve-buttonsblue tieand handkerchief wet with cologne
sticking out of the breast-pocketgave an air of elegance in spite of
the afghan spread over the lower portions of his manly form. The
yellow hair was brushed till it shoneand being parted in the
middleto hide the black patchmade two engaging little "quiris"
on his forehead. The summer tan had faded from his cheeksbut
his eyes were as blue as the wintry skyand nearly every white
tooth was visible as he smiled on his partner in misfortunesaying
I'm ever so glad to see you again; guess we are over the worst of
it now, and can have good times. Won't it be fun to stay here all
the while, and amuse one another?
Yes, indeed; but one day is so short! It will be stupider than ever
when I go home to-night,answered Jilllooking about her with
But you are not going home to-night; you are to stay ever so long.
Didn't Mamma tell you?
No. Oh, how splendid! Am I really? Where will I sleep? What
will Mammy do without me?and Jill almost sat upshe was so
delighted with the new surprise.
That room in there is all fixed for you. I made Frank tell me so
much. Mamma said I might tell you, but I'd idn't think she would
be able to hold in if she saw you first. Your mother is coming, too,
and we are all going to have larks together till we are
The splendor of this arrangement took Jill's breath away, and
before she got it again, in came Frank and Ralph with two
clothes-baskets of treasures to be hung upon the tree. While they
wired on the candles the children asked questions, and found out
all they wanted to know about the new plans and pleasures.
'Who fixed all this?
Mamma thought of it, and Ralph and I'd id it. He's the man for
sort of thing, you know. He proposed cutting out the arches and
sticking on birds and butterflies just where they looked best. I put
those canaries over there, they looked so well against the blue;
and Frank proudly pointed out some queer orange-colored fowls
looking as if they were having fits in the airbut very effective
Your mother said you might call this the Bird Room. We caught a
scarlet-tanager for you to begin with, didn't we, Jack?and Ralph
threw a hon-hon at Jillwho looked very like a bright little bird in
a warm nest.
Good for you! Yes, and we are going to keep her in this pretty
cage till we can both fly off together. I say, Jill, where shall we be
in our classes when we do get back?and Jack's merry face fell at
At the foot, if we don't study and keep up. Doctor said I might
study sometimes, if I'd lie still as long as he thought best, and
Molly brought home my books, and Merry says she will come in
every day and tell me where the lessons are. I don't mean to fall
behind, if my backbone is cracked,said Jillwith a decided nod
that made several black rings fly out of the net to dance on her
Frank said he d pull me along in my Latin, but I've been lazy and
haven't done a thing. Let's go at it and start fair for New Year,
proposed Jackwho did not love study as the bright girl didbut
was ashamed to fall behind her in anything.
All right. They ve been reviewing, so we can keep up when they
begin, if we work next week, while the rest have a holiday. Oh,
dear, I do miss school dreadfully; and Jill sighed for the old desk
every blot and notch of which was dear to her.
There come our things, and pretty nice they look, too,said Jack;
and his mother began to dress the treehanging up the gay horns
the gilded nutsred and yellow apples and orangesand festooning
long strings of pop-corn and scarlet cranberries from bough to
boughwith the glittering necklaces hung where the light would
show their colors best.
I never saw such a splendid tree before. I'm glad we could help,
though we were ill. Is it all done now?asked Jillwhen the last
parcel was tied on and everybody stood back to admire the pretty
One thing more. Hand me that box, Frank, and be very careful
that you fasten this up firmly, Ralph,answered Mrs. Minotas she
took from its wrappings the waxen figure of a little child. The rosy
limbs were very life-likeso was the smiling face under the locks
of shining hair. Both plump arms were outspread as if to scatter
blessings over alland downy wings seemed to flutter from the
dimpled shouldersmaking an angel of the baby.
Is it St. Nicholas?asked Jillwho had never seen that famous
personageand knew but little of Christmas festivities.
It is the Christ-child, whose birthday we are celebrating. I got the
best I could find, for I like the idea better than old Santa Claus;
though we may have him, too,said Mammaholding the little
image so that both could see it well.
It looks like a real baby; and Jack touched the rosy foot with the
tip of his fingeras if expecting a crow from the half-open lips.
It reminds me of the saints in the chapel of the Sacred Heart in
Montreal. One little St. John looked like this, only he had a lamb
instead of wings,said Jillstroking the flaxen hairand wishing
she dared ask for it to play with.
He is the children's saint to pray to, love, and imitate, for he never
forgot them, but blessed and healed and taught them all his life.
This is only a poor image of the holiest baby ever born, but I hope
it will keep his memory in your minds all day, because this is the
day for good resolutions, happy thoughts, and humble prayers, as
well as play and gifts and feasting.
While she spokeMrs. Minottouching the little figure as tenderly
as if it were alivehad tied a broad white ribbon round itand
handing it to Ralphbade him fasten it to the hook above the
tree-topwhere it seemed to float as if the downy wings supported
Jack and Jill lay silently watchingwith a sweet sort of soberness
in their young facesand for a moment the room was very still as
all eyes looked up at the Blessed Child. The sunshine seemed to
grow more golden as it flickered on the little headthe flames
glanced about the glittering tree as if trying to climb and kiss the
baby feetandwithouta chime of bells rang sweetlycalling
people to hear again the lovely story of the life begun on
Only a minutebut it did them goodand presentlywhen the
pleasant work was overand the workers gonethe boys to church
and Mamma to see about lunch for the invalidsJack saidgravcly
I think we ought to be extra good, everyone is so kind to us, and
we are getting well, and going to have such capital times. Don't see
how we can do anything else to show we are grateful.
It isn't easy to be good when one is sick,said Jillthoughtfully. "I
fret dreadfullyI get so tired of being still. I want to scream
sometimesbut I don'tbecause it would scare Mammyso I cry.
Do you cryJack?"
Men never do. I want to tramp round when things bother me; but I
can t, so I kick and say, 'Hang it! and when I get very bad I pitch
into Frank, arid he lets me. I tell you, Jill, he's a good brother!and
Jack privately resolved then and there to invite Frank to take it out
of him in any form he pleased as soon as health would permit.
I rather think we shall grow good in this pretty place, for I don't
see how we can be bad if we want to, it is all so nice and sort of
pious here,said Jillwith her eyes on the angel over the tree.
A fellow can be awfully hungry, I know that. I didn't half eat
breakfast, I was in such a hurry to see you, and know all about the
secrets. Frank kept saying I couldn't guess, that you had come,
Jack and Jill lay silently watching, with a sweet sort of soberness
in their young faces, and for a moment the room was very still as
all eyes looked up at the Blessed Child. The sunshine seemed to
grow more golden as it flickered on the little head, the flames
glanced about the glittering tree as if trying to climb and kiss the
baby feet, and, without, a chime of bells rang sweetly, calling
people to hear again the lovely story of the life begun on Christmas
Only a minute, but it did them good, and presently, when the
pleasant work was over, and the workers gone, the boys to church,
and Mamma to see about lunch for the invalids, Jack said, gravely,
I think we ought to be extra goodeveryone is so kind to usand
we are getting welland going to have such capital times. Don't see
how we can do anything else to show we are grateful."
It isn't easy to be good when one is sick,said Jillthoughtfully. "I
fret dreadfullyI get so tired of being still. I want to scream
sometimesbut I don'tbecause it would scare Mammyso I cry.
Do you cryJack?"
Men never do. I want to tramp round when things bother me; but I
can t, so I kick and say, 'Hang it! and when I get very bad I pitch
into Frank, and he lets me. I tell you, Jill, he's a good brother!and
Jack privately resolved then and there to invite Frank to take it out
of him in any form he pleased as soon as health would permit.
I rather think we shall grow good in this pretty place, for I don't
see how we can be bad if we want to, it is all so nice and sort of
pious here,said Jillwith her eyes on the angel over the tree.
A fellow can be awfully hungry, I know that. I'd idn't half eat
breakfast, I was in such a hurry to see you, and know all about the
secrets. Frank kept saying I couldn't guess, that you had come,
and I never would be ready, till finally I got mad and fired an egg
at him, and made no end of a mess.
Jack and Jill went off into a gale of laughter at the idea of
dignified Frank dodging the egg that smashed on the wallleaving
an indelible mark of Jack's besetting sinimpatience.
Just then Mrs. Minot came inwell pleased to hear such pleasant
soundsand to see two merry faceswhere usually one listless one
met her anxious eyes.
The new medicine works well, neighbor,she said to Mrs. Pecq
who followed with the lunch tray.
Indeed it does, mem. I feel as if I'd taken a sup myself, I'm that
easy in my mind.
And she looked sotoofor she seemed to have left all her cares in
the little house when she locked the door behind herand now
stood smiling with a clean apron onso fresh and cheerfulthat Jill
hardly knew her own mother.
Things taste better when you have someone to eat with you,
observed Jackas they'd evoured sandwichesand drank milk out
of little mugs with rosebuds on them.
Don't eat too much, or you won't be ready for the next surprise,
said his motherwhen the plates were emptyand the last drop
gone down throats dry with much chatter.
More surprises! Oh, what fun!cried Jill. And all the rest of the
morningin the intervals of talk and playthey tried to guess what
it could be.
At two o clock they found outfor dinner was served in the Bird
Roomand the children revelled in the simple feast prepared for
them. The two mothers kept the little bed-tables well suppliedand
fed their nurslings like maternal birdswhile Frank presided over
the feast with great dignityand ate a dinner which would have
astonished Mammaif she had not been too busy to observe how
fast the mince pie vanished.
The girls said Christmas was spoiled because of us; but I don't
think so, and they won't either, when they see this splendid place
and know all about our nice plans,said Jillluxuriously eating the
nut-meats Jack picked out f or heras they lay in Eastern style at
the festive board.
I call this broken bones made easy. I never had a better Christmas.
Have a raisin? Here's a good fat one.And Jack made a long arm
to Jill's mouthwhich began to sing "Little Jack Homer" as an
It would have been a lonesome one to all of us, I'm thinking, but
for your mother, boys. My duty and hearty thanks to you, mem,
put in grateful Mrs. Pecqbowing over her coffee-cup as she had
seen ladies bow over their wine-glasses at dinner parties in Old
I rise to propose a health, Our Mothers.And Frank stood up with
a goblet of waterfor not even at Christmas time was wine seen on
Hip, hip, hurrah!called Jackbaptizing himself with a good
sprinkleas he waved his glass and drank the toast with a look that
made his mother's eyes fill with happy tears.
Jill threw her mother a kissfeeling very grown up and elegant to
be dining out in such style. Then they'd rank everyone's health
with much merrimenttill Frank declared that Jack would float off
on the deluge of water he splashed about in his enthusiasmand
Mamma proposed a rest after the merry-making.
Now the best fun is coming, and we have not long to wait,said
the boywhen naps and rides about the room had whiled away the
brief interval between dinner and duskfor the evening
entertainment was to be an early oneto suit the invalids bedtime.
I hope the girls will like their things. I helped to choose them, and
each has a nice present. I don't know mine, though, and I'm in a
twitter to see it,said Jillas they lay waiting for the fun to begin.
I do; I chose it, so I know you will like one of them, anyway.
Have I got more than one?
I guess you'll think so when they are handed down. The bell was
going all day yesterday, and the girls kept bringing in bundles for
you; I see seven now,and Jack rolled his eyes from one
mysterious parcel to another hanging on the laden boughs.
I know something, too. That square bundle is what you want ever
so much. I told Frank, and he got it for his present. It is all red and
gold outside, and every sort of color inside; you'll hurrah when
you see it. That roundish one is yours too; I made them,cried Jill
pointing to a flat package tied to the stem of the treeand a neat
little roll in which were the blue mittens that she had knit for him.
I can wait; but the boy's eyes shone with eagernessand he could
not resist firing two or three pop-corns at it to see whether it was
hard or soft.
That barking dog is for Boo, and the little yellow sled, so Molly
can drag him to school, he always tumbles down so when it is
slippery,continued Jillproud of her superior knowledgeas she
showed a small spotted animal hanging by its tailwith a red
tongue displayed as if about to taste the sweeties in the horn
Don't talk about sleds, for mercy's sake! I never want to see
another, and you wouldn't, either, if you had to lie with a flat-iron
tied to your ankle, as I do,said Jackwith a kick of the well leg
and an ireful glance at the weight attached to the other that it
might not contract while healing.
Well, I think plasters, and liniment, and rubbing, as bad as
flat-irons any day. I don't believe you have ached half so much as I
have, though it sounds worse to break legs than to sprain your
back,protested Jilleager to prove herself the greater suffereras
invalids are apt to be.
I guess you wouldn't think so if you d been pulled round as I
was when they set my leg. Caesar, how it did hurt!and Jack
squirmed at the recollection of it.
You didn't faint away as I'd id when the doctor was finding out if
my vertebrums were hurt, so now!cried Jillbound to carry her
pointthough not at all clear what vertebrae were.
Pooh! Girls always faint. Men are braver, and I didn't faint a bit
in spite of all that horrid agony.
You howled; Frank told me so. Doctor said I was a brave girl, so
you needn't brag, for you'll have to go on a crutch for a while. I
You may have to use two of them for years, maybe. I heard the
doctor tell my mother so. I shall be up and about long before you
will. Now then!
Both children were getting excitedfor the various pleasures of the
day had been rather too much for themand there is no knowing
but they would have added the sad surprise of a quarrel to the
pleasant ones of the dayif a cheerful whistle had not been heard
as Ralph came in to light the candles and give the last artistic
touches to the room.
Well, young folks, how goes it? Had a merry time so far?he
askedas he fixed the steps and ran up with a lighted match in his
Very nice, thank you,answered a prim little voice from the dusk
belowfor only the glow of the fire filled the room just then.
Jack said nothingand two red sulky faces were hidden in the dark
watching candle after candle sputterbrightenand twinkletill the
trembling shadows began to flit away like imps afraid of the light.
Now he will see my face, and I know it is cross,thought Jillas
Ralph went round the last circleleaving another line of sparks
among the hemlock boughs.
Jack thought the sameand had just got the frown smoothed out of
his foreheadwhen Frank brought a fresh logand a glorious blaze
sprung upfilling every corner of the roomand dancing over the
figures in the long chairs till they had to brighten whether they
liked it or not. Presently the bell began to ring and gay voices to
sound below: then Jill smiled in spite of herself as Molly Loo's
usual cry of "Ohdearwhere is that child?" reached herand Jack
could not help keeping time to the march Ed playedwhile Frank
and Gus marshalled the procession.
Ready!cried Mrs. Minotat lastand up came the troop of eager
lads and lassesbrave in holiday suitswith faces to match. A
unanimous "0oo!" burst from twenty tonguesas the full
splendor of the treethe roomand its inmatesdawned upon them;
for not only did the pretty Christ-child hover abovebut Santa
Claus himself stood belowfur-cladwhite-beardedand powdered
with snow from the dredging-box.
Ralph was a good actorandwhen the first raptures were over he
distributed the presents with such droll speechesjokesand
gambolsthat the room rang with merrimentand passers-by
paused to listensure that hereat leastChristmas was merry. It
would be impossible to tell about all the gifts or the joy of the
receiversbut everyone was satisfiedand the king and queen of
the revels so overwhelmed with little tokens of good-willthat
their beds looked like booths at a fair. Jack beamed over the
handsome postage-stamp book which had long been the desire of
his heartand Jill felt like a millionairewith a silver fruit-knifea
pretty work-basketand oh! coals of fire on her head a ring from
A simple little thing enoughwith one tiny turquoise forget-me-
notbut something like a dew-drop fell on it when no one was
lookingand she longed to sayI'm sorry I was cross; forgive me,
Jack.But it could not be done thenso she turned to admire
Merry's bed-shoesthe pots of pansieshyacinthsand geranium
which Gus and his sisters sent for her window gardenMolly's
queer Christmas pieand the zither Ed promised to teach her how
to play upon.
The tree was soon strippedand pop-corns strewed the floor as the
children stood about picking them off the red threads when candy
gave outwith an occasional cranberry by way of relish. Boo
insisted on trying the new sled at onceand enlivened the trip by
the squeaking of the spotted dogthe toot of a tin trumpetand
shouts of joy at the splendor of the turn-out.
The girls all put on their necklacesand danced about like fine
ladies at a ball. The boys fell to comparing skatesballsand
cuff-buttons on the spotwhile the little ones devoted all their
energies to eating everything eatable they could lay their hands on.
Games were played till nine o clockand then the party broke up
after they had taken hands round the tree and sung a song written
by one whom you all know so faithfully and beautifully does she
love and labor for children the world over.
THE BLESSED DAY
What shall little children bring
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
What shall little children bring
On Christmas Day in the morning?
This shall little children bring
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Love and joy to Christ their king,
On Christmas Day in the morning!
What shall little children sing
On Christmas Dayon Christmas Day?
What shall little children sing
On Christmas Day in the morning?
The grand old carols shall they sing
On Christmas Dayon Christmas Day;
With all their heartstheir offerings bring
On Christmas Day in the morning."
Jack was carried off to bed in such haste that he had only time to
call outGood-night!before he was rolled awaygaping as he
went. Jill soon found herself tucked up in the great white bed she
was to share with her motherand lay looking about the pleasant
chamberwhile Mrs. Pecq ran home for a minute to see that all
was safe there for the night.
After the merry din the house seemed very stillwith only a light
step now and thenthe murmur of voices not far awayor the jingle
of sleigh-bells from withoutand the little girl rested easily among
the pillowsthinking over the pleasures of the daytoo wide-awake
for sleep. There was no lamp in the chamberbut she could look
into the pretty Bird Roomwhere the fire-light still shone on
flowery wallsdeserted treeand Christ-child floating above the
green. Jill's eyes wandered there and lingered till they were full of
regretful tearsbecause the sight of the little angel recalled the
words spoken when it was hung upthe good resolution she had
taken thenand how soon it was broken.
I said I couldn't be bad in that lovely place, and I was a cross,
ungrateful girl after all they ve done for Mammy and me. Poor
Jack was hurt the worst, and he was brave, though he did scream.
I wish I could go and tell him so, and hear him say, 'All right. Oh,
me, I've spoiled the day!
A great sob choked more wordsand Jill was about to have a
comfortable crywhen someone entered the other roomand she
saw Frank doing something with a long cord and a thing that
looked like a tiny drum. Quiet as a bright-eyed mouseJill peeped
out wondering what it wasand suspecting mischieffor the boy
was laughing to himself as he stretched the cordand now and then
bent over the little object in his handtouching it with great care.
Maybe it's a torpedo to blow up and scare me; Jack likes to play
tricks. Well, I'll scream loud when it goes off, so he will be
satisfied that I'm dreadfully frightened,thought Jilllittle
dreaming what the last surprise of the day was to be.
Presently a voice whispered
Are you awake?"
Anyone there but you?
Catch this, then. Hold it to your ear and see what you'll get.
The little drum came flying inandcatching itJillwith some
hesitationobeyed Frank's order. Judge of her amazement when
she caught in broken whispers these touching words:
Sorry I was cross. Forgive and forget. Start fair to-morrow. All
Jill was so delighted with this handsome apologythat she could
not reply for a momentthen steadied her voiceand answered
back in her sweetest tone
I'm sorry, too. Never, never, will again. Feel much better now.
Good-night, you dear old thing.
Satisfied with the success of his telephoneFrank twitched back
the drum and vanishedleaving Jill to lay her cheek upon the hand
that wore the little ring and fall asleepsaying to herselfwith a
farewell glance at the children's saintdimly seen in the soft
gloomI will not forget. I will be good!
Chapter 7 Jill's Mission
The good times began immediatelyand very little studying was
done that week in spite of the virtuous resolutions made by certain
young persons on Christmas Day. Butdear mehow was it
possible to settle down to lessons in the delightful Bird Room
with not only its own charms to distract onebut all the new gifts
to enjoyand a dozen calls a day to occupy one's time?
I guess we'd better wait till the others are at school, and just go in
for fun this week,said Jackwho was in great spirits at the
prospect of getting upfor the splints were offand he hoped to be
promoted to crutches very soon.
I shall keep my Speller by me and take a look at it every day, for
that is what I'm most backward in. But I intend to devote myself to
you, Jack, and be real kind and useful. I've made a plan to do it,
and I mean to carry it out, anyway,answered Jillwho had begun
to be a missionaryand felt that this was a field of labor where she
could distinguish herself.
Here's a home mission all ready for you, and you can be paying
your debts beside doing yourself good,Mrs. Pecq said to her in
privatehaving found plenty to do herself.
Now Jill made one great mistake at the outset--she forgot that she
was the one to be converted to good manners and gentlenessand
devoted her efforts to looking after Jackfinding it much easier to
cure other people's faults than her own. Jack was a most engaging
heathenand needed very little instruction; therefore Jill thought
her task would be an easy one. But three or four weeks of petting
and play had rather demoralized both childrenso Jill's Speller
though tucked under the sofa pillow every daywas seldom looked
atand Jack shirked his Latin shamefully. Both read all the
story-books they could getheld daily levees in the Bird Roomand
all their spare minutes were spent in teaching Snowdropthe great
Angora catto bring the ball when they dropped it in their game.
So Saturday cameand both were rather the worse for so much
idlenesssince daily duties and studies are the wholesome bread
which feeds the mind better than the dyspeptic plum-cake of
sensational readingor the unsubstantial bon-bons of frivolous
It was a stormy dayso they had few callersand devoted
themselves to arranging the album; for these books were all the
rage just thenand boys met to comparediscussbuyselland
swapstamps with as much interest as men on 'Change gamble in
stocks. Jack had a nice little collectionand had been saving up
pocket-money to buy a book in which to preserve his treasures.
Nowthanks to Jill's timely suggestionFrank had given him a fine
oneand several friends had contributed a number of rare stamps
to grace the largeinviting pages. Jill wielded the gum-brush and
fitted on the little flapsas her fingers were skilful at this nice
workand Jack put each stamp in its proper place with great
rustling of leaves and comparing of marks. Returningafter a brief
absenceMrs. Minot beheld the countenances of the workers
adorned with gay stampsgiving them a very curious appearance.
My dears! what new play have you got now? Are you wild
Indians? or letters that have gone round the world before finding
the right address?she askedlaughing at the ridiculous sightfor
both were as sober as judges and deeply absorbed in some doubtful
Oh, we just stuck them there to keep them safe; they get lost if we
leave them lying round. It's very handy, for I can see in a minute
what I want on Jill's face and she on mine, and put our fingers on
the right chap at once,answered Jackaddingwith an anxious
gaze at his friend's variegated countenanceWhere the dickens is
my New Granada? It's rare, and I wouldn't lose it for a dollar.
'Whythere it is on your own nose. Don't you remember you put it
there because you said mine was not big enough to hold it?"
laughed Jilltweaking a large orange square off the round nose of
her neighborcausing it to wrinkle up in a droll wayas the gum
made the operation slightly painful.
So I'd id, and gave you Little Bolivar on yours. Now I'll have
Alsace and Lorraine, 1870. There are seven of them, so hold still
and see how you like it,returned Jackpicking the largepale
stamps one by one from Jill's foreheadwhich they crossed like a
She bore it without flinchingsaying to herself with a secret smile
as she glanced at the hot firewhich scorched her if she kept near
enough to Jack to help himThis really is being like a missionary,
with a tattooed savage to look after. I have to suffer a little, as the
good folks did who got speared and roasted sometimes; but I won't
complain a bit, though my forehead smarts, my arms are tired, and
one cheek is as red as fire.
The Roman States make a handsome page, don't they?asked
Jacklittle dreaming of the part he was playing in Jill's mind. "Oh
I sayisn't Corea a beauty? I'm ever so proud of that"; and he gazed
fondly on a big blue stampthe sole ornament of one page.
I don't see why the Cape of Good Hope has pyramids. They ought
to go in Egypt. The Sandwich Islands are all right, with
heads of the black kings and queens on them,said Jillfeeling
that they were very appropriate to her private play.
Turkey has crescents, Australia swans, and Spain women's heads,
with black bars across them. Frank says it is because they keep
women shut up so; but that was only his fun. I'd rather have a
good, honest green United States, with Washington on it, or a blue
one-center with old Franklin, than all their eagles and lions and
kings and queens put together,added the democratic boywith a
disrespectful slap on a crowned head as he settled Heligoland in its
Why does Austria have Mercury on the stamp, I wonder? Do they
wear helmets like that?asked Jillwith the brush-handle in her
mouth as she cut a fresh batch of flaps.
Maybe he was postman to the gods, so he is put on stamps now.
The Prussians wear helmets, but they have spikes like the old
Roman fellows. I like Prussians ever so much; they fight
splendidly, and always beat. Austrians have a handsome uniform,
Talking of Romans reminds me that I have not heard your Latin
for two days. Come, lazybones, brace up, and let us have it now.
I've done my compo, and shall have just time before I go out for a
tramp with Gus,said Frankputting by a neat page to dryfor he
studied every day like a conscientious lad as he was.
Don't know it. Not going to try till next week. Grind away over
your old Greek as much as you like, but don't bother me,
answered Jackfrowning at the mere thought of the detested
But Frank adored his Xenophonand would not see his old friend
Caesarneglected without an effort to defend him; so he
confiscated the gum-potand effectually stopped the stamp
business by whisking away at one fell swoop all that lay on Jill's
Now then, young man, you will quit this sort of nonsense and do
your lesson, or you won't see these fellows again in a hurry. You
asked me to hear you, and I'm going to do it; here's the book.
Frank's tone was the dictatorial onewhich Jack hated and always
found hard to obeyespecially when he knew he ought to do it.
Usuallywhen his patience was triedhe strode about the roomor
ran off for a race round the gardencoming back breathlessbut
good-tempered. Now both these vents for irritation were denied
himand he had fallen into the way of throwing things about in a
pet. He longed to send Caesar to perpetual banishment in the fire
blazing close bybut resisted the temptationand answered
honestlythough gruffly: "I know I'd idbut I don't see any use in
pouncing on a fellow when he isn't ready. I haven't got my lesson
and don't mean to worry about it; so you may just give me back my
things and go about your business."
I'll give you back a stamp for every perfect lesson you get, and
you won't see them on any other terms; andthrusting the
treasures into his pocketFrank caught up his rubber bootsand
went off swinging them like a pair of clubsfeeling that he would
give a trifle to be able to use them on his lazy brother.
At this high-handed proceedingand the threat which accompanied
itJack's patience gave outand catching up Caesaras he thought
sent him flying after the retreating tyrant with the defiant
Keep them, then, and your old book, too! I won't look at it till you
give all my stamps back and say you are sorry. So now!
It was all over before Mamma could interfereor Jill do more than
clutch and cling to the gum-brush. Frank vanished unharmedbut
the poor book dashed against the wall to fall half open on the
floorits gay cover loosenedand its smooth leaves crushed by the
It's the album! O Jack, how could you?cried Jilldismayed at
sight of the precious book so maltreated by the owner.
Thought it was the other. Guess it isn't hurt much. Didn't mean to
hit him, anyway. He does provoke me so,muttered Jackvery red
and shamefaced as his mother picked up the book and laid it
silently on the table before him. He did not know what to do with
himselfand was thankful for the stamps still left himfinding
great relief in making faces as he plucked them one by one from
his mortified countenance. Jill looked onhalf gladhalf sorry that
her savage showed such signs of unconverted ferocityand Mrs.
Minot went on writing letterswearing the grave look her sons
found harder to bear than another person's scolding. No one spoke
for a momentand the silence was becoming awkward when Gus
appeared in a rubber suitbringing a book to Jack from Laura and
a note to Jill from Lotty.
Look here, you just trundle me into my den, please, I'm going to
have a nap, it's so dull to-day I don't feel like doing much,said
Jackwhen Gus had done his errandstrying to look as if he knew
nothing about the fracas.
Jack folded his arms and departed like a warrior borne from the
battle-fieldto be chaffed unmercifully for a "pepper-pot while
Gus made him comfortable in his own room.
I heard once of a boy who threw a fork at his brother and put his
eye out. But he didn't mean toand the brother forgave himand he
never did so any more observed Jill, in a pensive tone, wishing to
show that she felt all the dangers of impatience, but was sorry for
Did the boy ever forgive himself?" asked Mrs. Minot.
No, 'm; I suppose not. But Jack didn't hit Frank, and feels real
sorry, I know.
He might have, and hurt him very much. Our actions are in our
own hands, but the consequences of them are not. Remember that,
my dear, and think twice before you do anything.
Yes, 'm, I will; and Jill composed herself to consider what
missionaries usually did when the natives hurled tomahawks and
boomerangs at one anotherand defied the rulers of the land.
Mrs. Minot wrote one page of a new letterthen stoppedpushed
her papers aboutthought a littleand finally got upsayingas if
she found it impossible to resist the yearning of her heart for the
I am going to see if Jack is covered up, he is so helpless, and
liable to take cold. Don't stir till I come back.
No, 'm, I won't.
Away went the tender parent to find her son studying Caesar for
dear lifeand all the more amiable for the little gust which had
blown away the temporary irritability. The brothers were often
called "Thunder and Lightning because Frank lowered and
growled and was a good while clearing up, while Jack's temper
came and went like a flash, and the air was all the clearer for the
escape of dangerous electricity. Of course Mamma had to stop and
deliver a little lecture, illustrated by sad tales of petulant boys, and
punctuated with kisses which took off the edge of these afflicting
Jill meantime meditated morally on the superiority of her own
good temper over the hasty one of her dear playmate, and just
when she was feeling unusually uplifted and secure, alas! like so
many of us, she fell, in the most deplorable manner.
Glancing about the room for something to do, she saw a sheet of
paper lying exactly out of reach, where it had fluttered from the
table unperceived. At first her eye rested on it as carelessly as it
did on the stray stamp Frank had dropped; then, as if one thing
suggested the other, she took it into her head that the paper was
Frank's composition, or, better still, a note to Annette, for the two
corresponded when absence or weather prevented the daily
meeting at school.
Wouldn't it be fun to keep it till he gives back Jack's stamps? It
would plague him so if it was a noteand I do believe it isfor
compo's don't begin with two words on one side. I'll get itand
Jack and I will plan some way to pay him offcross thing!"
Forgetting her promise not to stiralso how dishonorable it was to
read other people's lettersJill caught up the long-handled hook
often in use nowand tried to pull the paper nearer. It would not
come at oncefor a seam in the carpet held itand Jill feared to
tear or crumple it if she was not very careful. The hook was rather
heavy and long for her to manageand Jack usually did the fishing
so she was not very skilful; and just as she was giving a
particularly quick jerkshe lost her balancefell off the sofaand
dropped the pole with a bang.
Oh, my back!was all she could think or say as she felt the jar all
through her little bodyand a corresponding fear in her guilty little
mind that someone would come and find out the double mischief
she had been at. For a moment she lay quite still to recover from
the shockthen as the pain passed she began to wonder how she
should get backand looked about her to see if she could do it
alone. She thought she couldas the sofa was near and she had
improved so much that she could sit up a little if the doctor would
have let her. She was gathering herself together for the effort
whenwithin arm's reach nowshe saw the tempting paperand
seized it with gleefor in spite of her predicament she did want to
tease Frank. A glance showed that it was not the composition nor a
notebut the beginning of a letter from Mrs. Minot to her sister
and Jill was about to lay it down when her own name caught her
eyeand she could not resist reading it. Hard words to write of one
so youngdoubly hard to readand impossible to forget.
Dear Lizzie, Jack continues to do very well, and will soon be up
again. But we begin to fear that the little girl is permanently
injured in the back. She is here, and we do our best for her; but I
never look at her without thinking of Lucinda Snow, who, you
remember, was bedridden for twenty years, owing to a fall at
fifteen. Poor little Janey does not know yet, and I hope-- There it
endedand "poor little Janey's" punishment for disobedience began
that instant. She thought she was getting well because she did not
suffer all the timeand everyone spoke cheerfully about "by and
by." Now she knew the truthand shut her eyes with a shiver as she
Twenty years! I couldn't bear it; oh, I couldn't bear it!
A very miserable Jill lay on the floorand for a while did not care
who came and found her; then the last words of the letter-- "I
hope"--seemed to shine across the blackness of the dreadful
twenty yearsand cheer her up a bitfor despair never lives long
in young heartsand Jill was a brave child.
That is why Mammy sighs so when she dresses me, and everyone
is so good to me. Perhaps Mrs. Minot doesn't really know, after all.
She was dreadfully scared about Jack, and he is getting well. I'd
like to ask Doctor, but he might find Out about the letter. Oh, dear,
why didn't I keep still and let the horrid thing alone!
As she thought thatJill pushed the paper awaypulled herself up
and with much painful effort managed to get back to her sofa
where she laid herself down with a groanfeeling as if the twenty
years had already passed over her since she tumbled off.
I've told a lie, for I said I wouldn't stir. I've hurt my back, I've done
a mean thing, and I've got paid for it. A nice missionary I am; I'd
better begin at home, as Mammy told me to; and Jill groaned
againremembering her mother's words. "Now I've got another
secret to keep all alonefor I'd be ashamed to tell the girls. I guess
I'll turn round and study my spelling; then no one will see my
Jill looked the picture of a goodindustrious child as she lay with
her back to the large tableher book held so that nothing was to be
seen but one cheek and a pair of lips moving busily. Fortunatelyit
is difficult for little sinners to act a partandeven if the face is
hiddensomething in the body seems to betray the internal remorse
and shame. UsuallyJill lay flat and still; now her back was bent in
a peculiar way as she leaned over her bookand one foot wagged
nervouslywhile on the visible cheek was a Spanish stamp with a
woman's face looking through the black barsvery suggestivelyif
she had known it. How long the minutes seemed till someone
cameand what a queer little jump her heart gave when Mrs.
Minot's voice saidcheerfullyJack is all right, and, I declare, so
is Jill. I really believe there is a telegraph still working somewhere
between you two, and each knows what the other is about without
I didn't have any other book handy, so I thought I'd study awhile,
answered Jillfeeling that she deserved no praise for her seeming
She cast a sidelong glance as she spokeand seeing that Mrs.
Minot was looking for the letterhid her face and lay so still she
could hear the rustle of the paper as it was taken from the floor. It
was well she did not also see the quick look the lady gave her as
she turned the letter and found a red stamp sticking to the under
sidefor this unlucky little witness told the story.
Mrs. Minot remembered having seen the stamp lying close to the
sofa when she left the roomfor she had had half a mind to take
it to Jackbut did notthinking Frank's plan had some advantages.
She also recollected that a paper flew off the tablebut being in
haste she had not stopped to see what it was. Nowthe stamp and
the letter could hardly have come together without handsfor they
lay a yard apartand herealsoon the unwritten portion of the
pagewas the mark of a small green thumb. Jill had been winding
wool for a stripe in her new afghanand the green ball lay on her
sofa. These signs suggested and confirmed what Mrs. Minot did
not want to believe; so did the voiceattitudeand air of Jillall
very unlike her usual openalert ways.
The kind lady could easily forgive the reading of her letter since
the girl had found such sad news therebut the dangers of
disobedience were serious in her caseand a glance showed that
she was suffering either in mind or body--perhaps both.
I will wait for her to tell me. She is an honest child, and the truth
will soon come out,thought Mrs. Minotas she took a clean
sheetand Jill tried to study.
Shall I hear your lesson, dear? Jack means to recite his like a
good boy, so suppose you follow his example,she saidpresently.
I don't know as I can say it, but I'll try.
Jill did tryand got on bravely till she came to the word
permanent; there she hesitatedremembering where she saw it
Do you know what that means?asked her teacherthinking to
help her on by defining the word.
Always--for a great while--or something like that; doesn't it?
faltered Jillwith a tight feeling in her throatand the color coming
upas she tried to speak easilyyet felt so shame-stricken she could
Are you in pain, my child? Never mind the lesson; tell me, and I'll
do something for you.
The kind wordsthe soft hand on her hot cheekand the pity in the
eyes that looked at herwere too much for Jill. A sob came first
and then the truthtold with hidden face and tears that washed the
blush awayand set free the honest little soul that could not hide
its fault from such a friend.
I knew it all before, and was sure you would tell me, else you
would not be the child I love and like to help so well.
Thenwhile she soothed Jill's troubleMrs. Minot told her story
and showed the letterwishing to lessenif possiblesome part of
the pain it had given.
Sly old stamp! To go and tell on me when I meant to own up, anti
get some credit if I could, after being so mean and bad,said Jill
smiling through her tears when she saw the tell-tale witnesses
You had better stick it in your book to remind you of the bad
consequences of disobedience, then perhaps this lesson will leave
a permanent impression on your mind and memory, answered Mrs.
Minot, glad to see her natural gayety coming back, and hoping that
she had forgotten the contents of the unfortunate letter. But she
had not; and presently, when the sad affair had been talked over
and forgiven, Jill asked, slowly, as she tried to put on a brave look,
Please tell me about Lucinda Snow. If I am to be like herI might
as well know how she managed to bear it so long."
I'm sorry you ever heard of her, and yet perhaps it may help you to
bear your trial, dear, which I hope will never be as heavy a one as
hers, This Lucinda I knew for years, and though at first I thought
her fate the saddest that could be, I came at last to see how happy
she was in spite of her affliction, how good and useful and
Why, how could she be? What did she do?cried Jillforgetting
her own troubles to look up with an openeager face again.
She was so patient, other people were ashamed to complain of
their small worries; so cheerful, that her own great one grew
lighter; so industrious, that she made both money and friends by
pretty things she worked and sold to her many visitors. And, best
of all, so wise and sweet that she seemed to get good out of
everything, and make her poor room a sort of chapel where people
went for comfort, counsel, and an example of a pious life. So, you
see, Lucinda was not so very miserable after all.
Well, if I could not be as I was, I'd like to be a woman like that.
Only, I hope I shall not!answered Jillthoughtfully at firstthen
coming out so decidedly with the last words that it was evident the
life of a bedridden saint was not at all to her mind.
So do I; and I mean to believe that you will not. Meantime, we
can try to make the waiting as useful and pleasant as possible. This
painful little back will be a sort of conscience to remind you of
what you ought to do and leave undone, and so you can be learning
obedience. Then, when the body is strong, it will have formed a
good habit to make duty easier; and my Lucinda can be a sweet
example, even while lying here, if she chooses.
Can I?and Jill's eyes were full of softer tears as the comfortable
cheering words sank into her heartto blossom slowly by and by
into her lifefor this was to be a long lessonhard to learnbut very
useful in the years to come.
When the boys returnedafter the Latin was recited and peace
restoredJack showed her a recovered stamp promptly paid by
Frankwho was as just as he was severeand Jill asked for the old
red onethough she did not tell why she wanted itnor show it put
away in the spelling-booka little seal upon a promise made to be
Merry and Molly Now let us see how the other missionaries got
on with their tasks.
Farmer Grant was a thriftywell-to-do mananxious to give his
children greater advantages than he had enjoyedand to improve
the fine place of which he was justly proud. Mrs. Grant was a
notable housewifeas ambitious and industrious as her husband
but too busy to spend any time on the elegancics of lifethough
always ready to help the poor and sick like a good neighbor and
Christian woman. The three sons--TomDickand Harry--were big
fellows of seventeennineteenand twenty-one; the first two on the
farmand the elder in a store just setting up for himself.
Kind-hearted but rough-mannered youthswho loved Merry very
muchbut teased her sadly about her "fine lady airs as they called
her dainty ways and love of beauty.
Merry was a thoughtful girl, full of innocent fancies, refined tastes,
and romantic dreams, in which no one sympathized at home,
though she was the pet of the family. It did seem, to an outsider, as
if the delicate little creature had got there by mistake, for she
looked very like a tea-rose in a field of clover and dandelions,
whose highest aim in life was to feed cows and help make root
When the girls talked over the new society, it pleased Merry very
much, and she decided not only to try and love work better, but to
convert her family to a liking for pretty things, as she called her
own more cultivated tastes.
I will begin at onceand show them that I don't mean to shirk my
dutythough I do want to be nice thought she, as she sat at supper
one night and looked about her, planning her first move.
Not a very cheering prospect for a lover of the beautiful, certainly,
for the big kitchen, though as neat as wax, had nothing lovely in it,
except a red geranium blooming at the window. Nor were the
people all that could be desired, in some respects, as they sat about
the table shovelling in pork and beans with their knives, drinking
tea from their saucers, and laughing out with a hearty Hawhaw
when anything amused them. Yet the boys were handsome, strong
specimens, the farmer a hale, benevolent-looking man, the
housewife a pleasant, sharp-eyed matron, who seemed to find
comfort in looking often at the bright face at her elbow, with the
broad forehead, clear eyes, sweet mouth, and quiet voice that came
like music in among the loud masculine ones, or the quick,
nervous tones of a woman always in a hurry.
Merry's face was so thoughtful that evening that her father
observed it, for, when at home, he watched her as one watches a
kitten, glad to see anything so pretty, young, and happy, at its play.
Little daughter has got something on her mindI mistrust. Come
and tell father all about it he said, with a sounding slap on his
broad knee as he turned his chair from the table to the ugly stove,
where three pairs of wet boots steamed underneath, and a great
kettle of cider apple-sauce simmered above.
When I've helped clear upI'll come and talk. Nowmotheryou
sit down and rest; Roxy and I can do everything answered Merry,
patting the old rocking-chair so invitingly that the tired woman
could not resist, especially as watching the kettle gave her an
excuse for obeying.
WellI don't care if I'd ofor I've been on my feet since five
o'clock. Be sure you cover things upand shut the buttery doorand
put the cat down cellarand sift your meal. I'll see to the
buckwheats last thing before I go to bed."
Mrs. Grant subsided with her knittingfor her hands were never
idle; Tom tilted his chair back against the wall and picked his teeth
with his pen-knife; Dick got out a little pot of greaseto make the
boots water-tight; and Harry sat down at the small table to look
over his accountswith an important air--for everyone occupied
this roomand the work was done in the out-kitchen behind.
Merry hated clearing upbut dutifully did every distasteful task
and kept her eye on careless Roxy till all was in order; then she
gladly went to perch on her father's kneeseeing in all the faces
about her the silent welcome they always wore for the "little one.
Yes, I do want something, but I know you will say it is silly,she
beganas her father pinched her blooming cheekwith the wish
that his peaches would ever look half as well.
Shouldn't wonder if it was a doll now; and Mr. Grant stroked her
head with an indulgent smileas if she was about six instead of
Why, father, you know I don't! I haven't played with dollies for
years and years. No; I want to fix up my room pretty, like Jill's. I'll
do it all myself, and only want a few things, for I don't expect it to
look as nice as hers.
Indignation gave Merry courage to state her wishes boldlythough
she knew the boys would laugh. They didand her mother said in a
tone of surprise
Why, child, what more can you want? I'm sure your room is
always as neat as a new pin, thanks to your bringing up, and I told
you to have a fire there whenever you wanted to.
Let me have some old things out of the garret, and I'll show you
what I want. It is neat, but so bare and ugly I hate to be there. I do
so love something pretty to look at!and Merry gave a little shiver
of disgust as she turned her eyes away from the large greasy boot
Dick was holding up to be sure it was well lubricated all round.
So do I, and that's a fact. I couldn't get on without my pretty girl
here, anyway. Why, she touches up the old place better than a
dozen flower-pots in full blow,said the farmeras his eye went
from the scarlet geranium to the bright young face so near his own.
I wish I had a dozen in the sitting-room window. Mother says they
are not tidy, but I'd keep them neat, and I know you'd like it,
broke in Merrryglad of the chance to get one of the long-desired
wishes of her heart fulfilled.
I'll fetch you some next time I go over to Ballad's. Tell me what
you want, and we'll have a posy bed somewhere round, see if we
don't,said her fatherdimly understanding what she wanted.
Now, if mother says I may fix my room, I shall be satisfied, and
I'll do my chores without a bit of fuss, to show how grateful I am,
said the girlthanking her father with a kissand smiling at her
mother so wistfully that the good woman could not refuse.
You may have anything you like out of the blue chest. There's a
lot of things there that the moths got at after Grandma died, and I
couldn't bear to throw or give 'em away. Trim up your room as you
like, and mind you don't forget your part of the bargain,answered
Mrs. Grantseeing profit in the plan.
I won't; I'll work all the morning to-morrow, and in the afternoon
I'll get ready to show you what I call a nice, pretty room,
answered Merrylooking so pleased it seemed as if another flower
had blossomed in the large bare kitchen.
She kept her wordand the very stormy afternoon when Jill got
into troubleMerry was working busily at her little bower. In the
blue chest she found a variety of treasuresand ignoring the moth
holesused them to the best advantagetrying to imitate the simple
comfort with a touch of elegance which prevailed in Mrs. Minot's
Three faded red-moreen curtains went up at the windows over the
chilly paper shadesgiving a pleasant glow to the bare walls. A red
quilt with white starsrather the worse for many washingscovered
the bedand a gay cloth the tablewhere a judicious arrangement
of books and baskets concealed the spots. The little air-tight stove
was banishedand a pair of ancient andirons shone in the fire-light.
Grandma's last and largest braided rug lay on the hearthand her
brass candlesticks adorned the bureauover the mirror of which
was festooned a white muslin skirttied up with Merry's red sash.
This piece of elegance gave the last touch to her roomshe
thoughtand she was very proud of itsetting forth all her small
store of trinkets in a large shellwith an empty scent bottleand a
clean tidy over the pincushion. On the walls she hung three
old-fashioned pictureswhich she ventured to borrow from the
garret till better could be found. One a mourning piecewith a
very tall lady weeping on an urn in a grove of willowsand two
small boys in knee breeches and funny little square tails to their
coatslooking like cherubs in large frills. The other was as good as
a bonfirebeing an eruption of Vesuviusand very lurid indeedfor
the Bay of Naples was boiling like a potthe red sky raining rocks
and a few distracted people lying flat upon the shore. The third
was a really pretty scene of children dancing round a May-polefor
though nearly a hundred years oldthe little maids smiled and the
boys pranced as gayly as if the flowers they carried were still alive
Now I'll call them all to see, and say that it is pretty. Then I'll
enjoy it, and come here when things look dismal and bare
everywhere else,said Merrywhen at last it was done. She had
worked all the afternoonand only finished at supper timeso the
candles had to be lighted that the toilette might look its bestand
impress the beholders with an idea of true elegance. Unfortunately
the fire smoked a littleand a window was set ajar to clear the
room; an evil disposed gust blew inwafting the thin drapery
within reach of the lightand when Merry threw open the door
proudly thinking to display her successshe was horrified to find
the room in a blazeand half her labor all in vain.
The conflagration was over in a minutehoweverfor the boys tore
down the muslin and stamped out the fire with much laughter
while Mrs. Grant bewailed the damage to her carpetand poor
Merry took refuge in her father's armsrefusing to be comforted in
spite of his kind commendation of "Grandma's fixins."
The third little missionary had the hardest time of alland her first
efforts were not much more satisfactory nor successful than the
others. Her father was away from morning till nightand then had
his paper to readbooks to keepor "a man to see down town so
that, after a hasty word at tea, he saw no more of the children till
another evening, as they were seldom up at his early breakfast. He
thought they were well taken care of, for Miss Bathsheba Dawes
was an energetic, middle-aged spinster when she came into the
family, and had been there fifteen years, so he did not observe,
what a woman would have seen at once, that Miss Bat was getting
old and careless, and everything about the house was at sixes and
sevens. She took good care of him, and thought she had done her
duty if she got three comfortable meals, nursed the children when
they were ill, and saw that the house did not burn up. So Maria
Louisa and Napoleon Bonaparte got on as they could, without the
tender cares of a mother. Molly had been a happy-go-lucky child,
contented with her pets, her freedom, and little Boo to love; but
now she was just beginning to see that they were not like other
children, and to feel ashamed of it.
Papa is busybut Miss Bat ought to see to us; she is paid for it
and goodness knows she has an easy time nowfor if I ask her to
do anythingshe groans over her bonesand tells me young folks
should wait on themselves. I take all the care of Boo off her hands
but I can't wash my own thingsand he hasn't a decent trouser to
his blessed little legs. I'd tell papabut it wouldn't do any good;
he'd only say'YeschildyesI'll attend to it' and never do a
This used to be Molly's lamentwhen some especially trying event
occurredand if the girls were not there to condole with hershe
would retire to the shed-chambercall her nine cats about herand
sitting in the old bushel basketpull her hair about her earsand
scold all alone. The cats learned to understand this habitand
nobly did their best to dispel the gloom which now and then
obscured the sunshine of their little mistress. Some of them would
creep into her lap and purr till the comfortable sound soothed her
irritation; the sedate elders sat at her feet blinking with such wise
and sympathetic facesthat she felt as if half a dozen Solomons
were giving her the sagest advice; while the kittens frisked about
cutting up their drollest capers till she laughed in spite of herself.
When the laugh camethe worst of the fit was overand she soon
cheered updismissing the consolers with a pat all rounda feast of
good things from Miss Bat's larderand the usual speech:
Well, dears, it's of no use to worry. I guess we shall get along
somehow, if we don't fret.
With which wise resolutionMolly would leave her retreat and
freshen up her spirits by a row on the river or a romp with Boo
which always finished the case. Nowhowevershe was bound to
try the new plan and do something toward reforming not only the
boy's conditionbut the disorder and discomfort of home.
I'll play it is Siam, and this the house of a native, and I'm come to
show the folks how to live nicely. Miss Bat won't know what to
make of it, and I can't tell her, so I shall get some fun out of it,
anyway,thought Mollyas she surveyed the dining-room the day
her mission began.
The prospect was not cheering; andif the natives of Siam live in
such confusionit is high time they were attended to. The
breakfast-table still stood as it was leftwith slops of coffee on the
cloth; bits of breadegg-shellsand potato-skins lay aboutand one
lonely sausage was cast away in the middle of a large platter. The
furniture was dustystove untidyand the carpet looked as if
crumbs had been scattered to chickens who declined their
breakfast. Boo was sitting on the sofawith his arm through a hole
in the coverhunting for some lost treasure put away there for safe
keepinglike a little magpie as he was. Molly fancied she washed
and dressed him well enough; but to-day she seemed to see more
dearlyand sighed as she thought of the hard job in store for her if
she gave him the thorough washing he neededand combed out
that curly mop of hair.
I'll clear up first and do that by and by. I ought to have a nice little
tub and good towels, like Mrs. Minot, and I will, too, if I buy them
myself,she saidpiling up cups with an energy that threatened
destruction to handles.
Miss Batwho was trailing about the kitchenwith her head pinned
up in a little plaid shawlwas so surprised by the demand for a pan
of hot water and four clean towelsthat she nearly dropped her
snuff-boxchief comfort of her lazy soul.
What new whimsey now? Generally, the dishes stand round till I
have time to pick 'em up, and you are off coasting or careering
somewhere. Well, this tidy fit won't last long, so I may as well
make the most of it,said Miss Batas she handed out the required
articlesand then pushed her spectacles from the tip of her sharp
nose to her sharper black eyes for a good look at the girl who stood
primly before herwith a clean apron on and her hair braided up
instead of flying wildly about her shoulders.
Umph!was all the comment that Miss Bat made on this unusual
neatnessand she went on scraping her saucepanswhile Molly
returned to her workvery well pleased with the effect of her first
stepfor she felt that the bewilderment of Miss Bat would be a
constant inspiration to fresh efforts.
An hour of hard work produced an agreeable change in the abode
of the nativefor the table was clearedroom swept and dusted
fire brightenedand the holes in the sofa-covering were pinned up
till time could be found to mend them. To be surerolls of lint lay
in cornerssmears of ashes were on the stove hearthand dust still
lurked on chair rounds and table legs. But too much must not be
expected of a new convertso the young missionary sat down to
restwell pleased and ready for another attempt as soon as she
could decide in what direction it should be made. She quailed
before Boo as she looked at the unconscious innocent peacefully
playing with the spotted dognow bereft of his tailand the lone
sausage with which he was attempting to feed the hungry animal
whose red mouth always gaped for more.
It will be an awful job, and he is so happy I won't plague him yet.
Guess I'll go and put my room to rights first, and pick up some
clean clothes to put on him, if he is alive after I get through with
him,thought Mollyforeseeing a stormy passage for the boywho
hated a bath as much as some people hate a trip across the
Up she wentand finding the fire out felt discouragedthought she
would rest a little moreso retired under the blankets to read one
of the Christmas books. The dinner-bell rang while she was still
wandering happily in "Nelly's Silver Mine and she ran down to
find that Boo had laid out a railroad all across her neat room, using
bits of coal for sleepers and books for rails, over which he was
dragging the yellow sled laden with a dismayed kitten, the tailless
dog, and the remains of the sausage, evidently on its way to the
tomb, for Boo took bites at it now and then, no other lunch being
Oh dear! why can't boys play without making such a mess
sighed Molly, picking up the feathers from the duster with which
Boo had been trying to make a cocky-doo" of the hapless dog. "I'll
wash him right after dinnerand that will keep him out of mischief
for a while she thought, as the young engineer unsuspiciously
proceeded to ornament his already crocky countenance with
squash, cranberry sauce, and gravy, till he looked more like a Fiji
chief in full war-paint than a Christian boy.
I want two pails of hot waterpleaseMiss Batand the big tub
said Molly, as the ancient handmaid emptied her fourth cup of tea,
for she dined with the family, and enjoyed her own good cooking
in its prime.
What are you going to wash now?"
Boo--I'm sure he needs it enough; and Molly could not help
laughing as the victim added to his brilliant appearance by
smearing the colors all together with a rub of two grimy hands
making a fine Turnerof himself.
Now, Maria Louisa Bemis, you ain't going to cut up no capers
with that child! The idea of a hot bath in the middle of the day, and
him full of dinner, and croupy into the bargain~ Wet a corner of a
towel at the kettle-spout and polish him off if you like, but you
won't risk his life in no bath-tubs this cold day.
Miss Bat's word was law in some thingsso Molly had to submit
and took Boo awaysayingloftilyas she left the room
I shall ask father, and do it to-night, for I will not have my brother
look like a pig.
My patience! how the Siamese do leave their things round,she
exclaimedas she surveyed her room after making up the fire and
polishing off Boo. "I'll put things in orderand then mend up my
ragsif I can find my thimble. Nowlet me see"; and she went to
exploring her closetbureauand tablefinding such disorder
everywhere that her courage nearly gave out.
She had clothes enoughbut all needed care; even her best dress
had two buttons offand her Sunday hat but one string. Shoes
skirtsbooksand toys lay aboutand her drawers were a perfect
chaos of soiled rufflesodd glovesold ribbonsboot lacingsand
bits of paper.
Oh, my heart, what a muddle! Mrs. Minot wouldn't think much of
me if she could see that,said Mollyrecalling how that lady once
said she could judge a good deal of a little girl's character and
habits by a peep at her top drawerand went onwith great
successto guess how each of the school-mates kept her drawer.
Come, missionary, clear up, and don't let me find such a gloryhole
again, or I'll report you to the society,said Mollytipping
the whole drawer-full out upon the bedand beguiling the tiresome
job by keeping up the new play.
Twilight came before it was doneand a great pile of things
loomed up on her tablewith no visible means of repair--for
Molly's work-basket was full of nutsand her thimble down a hole
in the shed-floorwhere the cats had dropped it in their play.
I'll ask Bat for hooks and tape, and papa for some money to buy
scissors and things, for I don't know where mine are. Glad I can't
do any more now! Being neat is such hard work!and Molly threw
herself down on the rug beside the old wooden cradle in which
Boo was blissfully rockingwith a cargo of toys aboard.
She watched her timeand as soon as her father had done supper
she hastened to saybefore he got to his desk
Please, papa, I want a dollar to get some brass buttons and things
to fix Boo's clothes with. He wore a hole in his new trousers
coasting down the Kembles' steps. And can't I wash him? He needs
it, and Miss Bat won't let me have a tub.
Certainly, child, certainly; do what you like, only don't keep me. I
must be off, or I shall miss Jackson, and he's the man I want; and
throwing down two dollars instead of oneMr. Bemis hurried
awaywith a vague impression that Boo had swallowed a dozen
brass buttonsand Miss Bat had been coasting somewhere in a
bath-pan; but catching Jackson was importantso he did not stop to
Armed with the paternal permissionMolly carried her pointand
ohwhat a dreadful evening poor Boo spent! Firsthe was decoyed
upstairs an hour too soonthen put in a tub by main force and
sternly scrubbedin spite of shrieks that brought Miss Bat to the
locked door to condole with the suffererscold the scrubberand
departdarkly prophesying croup before morning.
He always howls when he is washed; but I shall do it, since you
won't, and he must get used to it. I will not have people tell me he's
neglected, if I can help it,cried Mollyworking away with tears in
her eyes--for it was as hard for her as for Boo; but she meant to be
thorough for once in her lifeno matter what happened.
When the worst was overshe coaxed him with candy and stories
till the long task of combing out the curls was safely done; thenin
the clean night-gown with a blue button newly sewed onshe laid
him in bedworn outbut sweet as a rose.
Now, say your prayers, darling, and go to sleep with the nice red
blanket all tucked round so you won't get cold,said Mollyrather
doubtful of the effect of the wet head.
No, I won't! Going to sleep now!and Boo shut his eyes wearily
feeling that his late trials had not left him in a prayerful mood.
Then you'll be a real little heathen, as Mrs. Pecq called you, and I
don't know what I shall do with you,said Mollylonging to
cuddle rather than scold the little fellowwhose soul needed
looking after as well as his body.
No, no; I won't be a heevin! I don't want to be frowed to the
trockindiles. I will say my prayers! oh, I will!andrising in his
bedBoo did sowith the devotion of an infant Samuelfor he
remembered the talk when the society was formed.
Molly thought her labors were over for that nightand soon went to
bedtired with her first attempts. But toward morning she was
wakened by the hoarse breathing of the boyand was forced to
patter away to Miss Bat's roomhumbly asking for the squillsand
confessing that the prophecy had come to pass.
I knew it! Bring the child to me, and don't fret. I'll see to him, and
next time you do as I say,was the consoling welcome she
received as the old lady popped up a sleepy but anxious face in a
large flannel capand shook the bottle with the air of a general
who had routed the foe before and meant to do it again.
Leaving her little responsibility in Miss Bat's armsMolly tired to
wet her pillow with a few remorseful tearsand to fall asleep
wondering if real missionaries ever killed their pupils in the
process of conversion.
So the girls all failed in the beginning; but they did not give up
and succeeded better next timeas we shall see.
Chapter 9 The Debating Club
Look here, old man, we ought to have a meeting. Holidays are
over, and we must brace up and attend to business,said Frank to
Gusas they strolled out of the schoolyard one afternoon in
Januaryapparently absorbed in conversationbut in reality waiting
for a blue cloud and a scarlet feather to appear on the steps.
All right. When, where, and what?asked Guswho was a man of
To-night, our house, subject, 'Shall girls go to college with us?'
Mother said we had better be making up our minds, because
everyone is talking about it, and we shall have to be on one side or
the other, so we may as well settle it now,answered Frankfor
there was an impression among the members that all vexed
questions would be much helped by the united eloquence and
wisdom of the club.
Very good; I'll pass the word and be there. Hullo, Neddy! The D.
C. meets to-night, at Minot's, seven sharp. Co-ed, &c.,added Gus
losing no timeas a third boy came briskly round the cornerwith a
little bag in his hand.
I'll come. Got home an hour earlier to-night, and thought I'd look
you up as I went by,responded Ed Devlinas he took possession
of the third postwith a glance toward the schoolhouse to see if a
seal-skin capwith a longyellow braid depending therefromwas
anywhere in sight.
Very good of you, I'm sure,said Gusironicallynot a bit
deceived by this polite attention.
The longest way round is sometimes the shortest way home, hey,
Ed?and Frank gave him a playful poke that nearly sent him off
Then they all laughed at some joke of their ownand Gus added
No girls coming to hear us to-night. Don't think it, my son.
More's the pity and Ed shook his head regretfully over the
downfall of his hopes.
Can't help it; the other fellows say they spoil the funso we have
to give insometimesfor the sake of peace and quietness. Don't
mind having them a bit myself said Frank, in such a tone of
cheerful resignation that they laughed again, for the Triangle as
the three chums were called, always made merry music.
We must have a game party next week. The girls like thatand so
do I candidly observed Gus, whose pleasant parlors were the
scene of many such frolics.
And so do your sisters and your cousins and your aunts hummed
Ed, for Gus was often called Admiral because he really did possess
three sisters, two cousins, and four aunts, besides mother and
grandmother, all living in the big house together.
The boys promptly joined in the popular chorus, and other voices
all about the yard took it up, for the Pinafore" epidemic raged
fearfully in Harmony Village that winter.
How's business?asked Guswhen the song endedfor Ed had not
returned to school in the autumnbut had gone into a store in the
Dull; things will look up toward spring, they say. I get on well
enough, but I miss you fellows dreadfully; and Ed put a hand on
the broad shoulder of each friendas if he longed to be a
Better give it up and go to college with me next year,said Frank
who was preparing for Boston Universitywhile Gus fitted for
No; I've chosen business, and I mean to stick to it, so don't you
unsettle my mind. Have you practised that March?asked Ed
turning to a gayer subjectfor he had his little troublesbut always
looked on the bright side of things.
Skating is so good, I don't get much time. Come early, and we'll
have a turn at it.
I will. Must run home now.
Pretty cold loafing here.
Mail is in by this time.
And with these artless excuses the three boys leaped off the posts
as if one spring moved themas a group of girls came chattering
down the path. The blue cloud floated away beside Frankthe
scarlet feather marched off with the Admiralwhile the fur cap
nodded to the gray hat as two happy faces smiled at each other.
The same thing often happenedfor twice a-day the streets were
full of young couples walking to and from school togethersmiled
at by the eldersand laughed at by the less susceptible boys and
girlswho went alone or trooped along in noisy groups. The
prudent mothers had tried to stop this guileless custombut found
it very difficultas the fathers usually sympathized with their sons
and dismissed the matter with the comfortable phraseNever
mind; boys will be boys.Not forever,returned the anxious
mammasseeing the tall lads daily grow more manlyand the
pretty daughters fast learning to look demure when certain names
It could not be stopped without great parental sternness and the
danger of deceitfor co-education will go on outside of school
if not insideand the safest way is to let sentiment and study go
hand in handwith teachers and parents to direct and explain the
great lesson all are the better for learning soon or late. So the
elders had to give inacknowledging that this sudden readiness to
go to school was a comfortthat the new sort of gentle emulation
worked wonders in lazy girls and boysand that watching these
primrose friendshipsbudblossomand die painless deathsgave
a little touch of romance to their own work-a-day lives.
On the whole I'd rather have my sons walking, playing, and
studying with bright, well-mannered girls, than always knocking
about with rough boys,said Mrs. Minot at one of the Mothers'
Meetingswhere the good ladies met to talk over their children
and help one another to do their duty by them.
I find that Gus is more gentle with his sisters since Juliet took him
in hand, for he wants to stand well with her, and they report him if
he troubles them. I really see no harm in the little friendship,
though I never had any such when I was a girl,said Mrs. Burton
who adored her one boy and was his confidante.
My Merry seems to be contented with her brothers so far, but I
shouldn't wonder if I had my hands full by and by,added Mrs.
Grantwho already foresaw that her sweet little daughter would be
sought after as soon as she should lengthen her skirts and turn up
her bonny brown hair.
Molly Loo had no mother to say a word for herbut she settled
matters for herself by holding fast to Merryand declaring that she
would have no escort but faithful Boo.
It is necessary to dwell a moment upon this new amusement
because it was not peculiar to Harmony Villagebut appears
everywhere as naturally as the game parties and croquet which
have taken the place of the husking frolics and apple-bees of olden
timesand it is impossible to dodge the subject if one attempts to
write of boys and girls as they really are nowadays.
Here, my hero, see how you like this. If it suits, you will be ready
to march as soon as the doctor gives the word,said Ralphcoming
into the Bird Room that evening with a neat little crutch under his
Ha, ha, that looks fine! I'd like to try it right off, but I won't till I
get leave. Did you make it yourself, Ral?asked Jackhandling it
with delightas he sat bolt uprightwith his leg on a restfor he
was getting on capitally now.
Mostly. Rather a neat job, I flatter myself.
I should say so. What a clever fellow you are! Any new inventions
lately?asked Frankcoming up to examine and admire.
Only an anti-snoring machine and an elbow-padanswered Ralph
with a twinkle in his eyeas if reminded of something funny.
Go on, and tell about them. I never heard of an anti-snorer. Jack
better have one,said Frankinterested at once.
Well, a rich old lady kept her family awake with that lively music,
so she sent to Shirtman and Codleff for something to stop it. They
thought it was a good joke, and told me to see what I could do. I
thought it over, and got up the nicest little affair you ever saw. It
went over the mouth, and had a tube to fit the ear, so when the
lady snored she woke herself up and stopped it. It suited exactly. I
think of taking out a patent,concluded Ralphjoining in the boys'
laugh at the droll idea.
What was the pad?asked Frankreturning to the small model of
an engine he was making.
Oh, that was a mere trifle for a man who had a tender elbow-joint
and wanted something to protect it. I made a little pad to fit on,
and his crazy-bone was safe.
I planned to have you make me a new leg if this one was spoilt,
said Jacksure that his friend could invent anything under the sun.
I'd do my best for you. I made a hand for a fellow once, and that
got me my place, you know,answered Ralphwho thought little
of such mechanical triflesand longed to be painting portraits or
modelling bustsbeing an artist as well as an inventor.
Here GusEdand several other boys came inand the
conversation became general. GrifChickand Brickbat were three
young gentlemen whose own respectable names were usually
ignoredand they cheerfully answered to these nicknames.
As the clock struck sevenFrankwho ruled the club with a rod of
iron when Chairmantook his place behind the study table. Seats
stood about itand a largeshabby book lay before Guswho was
Secretaryand kept the records with a lavish expenditure of inkto
judge by the blots. The members took their seatsand nearly all
tilted back their chairs and put their hands in their pocketsto keep
them out of mischief; foras everyone knowsit is impossible for
two lads to be near each other and refrain from tickling or
pinching. Frank gave three raps with an old croquet-mallet set on a
short handleand with much dignity opened the meeting.
Gentlemen, the business of the club will be attended to, and then
we will discuss the question, 'Shall girls go to our colleges?' The
Secretary will now read the report of the last meeting.
Clearing his throatGus read the following brief and elegant
Club met, December I 8th, at the house of G. Burton, Esq.
'Is summer or winter best fun?' A lively pow-wow. About evenly
divided. J. Flint fined five cents for disrespect to the Chair. A
collection of forty cents taken up to pay for breaking a pane of
glass during a free fight of the members on the door-step. E.
Devlin was chosen Secretary for the coming year, and a new book
contributed by the Chairman.
Is there any other business before the meeting?asked Frankas
the reader closed the old book with a slam and shoved the new
one across the table.
Ed roseand glancing about him with an appealing looksaidas if
sure his proposition would not be well receivedI wish to propose
the name of a new member. Bob Walker wants to join, and 1 think
we ought to let him. He is trying to behave well, and I am sure we
could help him. Can't we?
All the boys looked soberand Joeotherwise Brickbatsaid
bluntlyI won't. He's a bad lot, and we don't want any such here.
Let him go with chaps of his own sort.
That is just what I want to keep him from! He's a good-hearted
boy enough, oniy no one looks after him; so he gets into scrapes,
as we should, if we were in his place, I'd are say. He wants to
come here, and would be so proud if he was let in, I know he'd
behave. Come now, let's give him a chance,and Ed looked at Gus
and Franksure that if they stood by him he should carry his point.
But Gus shook his headas if doubtful of the wisdom of the plan
and Frank said gravely: "You know we made the rule that the
number should never be over eightand we cannot break it."
You needn't. I can't he here half the time, so I will resign and let
Bob have my place,began Edbut he was silenced by shouts of
No, no, you shan't!We won't let you off!Club would go to
smash, if you back out!
Let him have my place; I'm the youngest, and you won't miss me,
cried Jackbound to stand by Ed at all costs.
We might do that,said Frankwho did object to small boys
though willing to admit this particular one.
Better make a new rule to have ten members, and admit both Bob
and Tom Grant,said Ralphwhereat Grif grinned and Joe
scowledfor one lad liked Merry's big brother and the other did
That's a good idea! Put it to vote,said Gustoo kind-hearted to
shut the door on anyone.
First I want to ask if all you fellows are ready to stand by Bob, out
of the club as well as in, for it won't do much good to be kind to
him here and cut him at school and in the street,said Edheartily
in earnest about the matter.
I will!cried Jackready to follow where his beloved friend led
and the others noddedunwilling to be outdone by the youngest
Good! With all of us to lend a hand, we can do a great deal; and I
tell you, boys, it is time, if we want to keep poor Bob straight. We
all turn our backs on him, so he loafs round the tavern, and goes
with fellows we don't care to know. But he isn't bad yet, and we
can keep him up, I'm sure, if we just try. I hope to get him into the
Lodge, and that will be half the battle, won't it, Frank?added Ed
sure that this suggestion would have weight with the honorable
Bring him along; I'm with you!answered Frankmaking up his
mind at oncefor he had joined the Temperance Lodge four years
agoand already six boys had followed his example.
He is learning to smoke, but we'll make him drop it before it leads
to worse. You can help him there, Admiral, if you only will,
added Edgiving a grateful look at one friendand turning to the
I'm your man; and Gus looked as if he knew what he promised
for he had given up smoking to oblige his fatherand kept his word
like a hero.
You other fellows can do a good deal by just being kind and not
twitting him with old scrapes, and I'll do anything I can for you all
to pay for this; and Ed sat down with a beaming smilefeeling
that his cause was won.
The vote was takenand all hands went upfor even surly Joe gave
in; so Bob and Tom were duly electedand proved their gratitude
for the honor done them by becoming worthy members of the club.
It was only boys' play nowbut the kind heart and pure instincts of
one lad showed the others how to lend a helping hand to a
comrade in dangerand win him away from temptation to the
safer pastimes of their more guarded lives.
Well pleased with themselves--for every genuine act or wordno
matter how trifling it seemsleaves a sweet and strengthening
influence behind--the members settled down to the debatewhich
was never very longand often only an excuse for fun of all sorts.
Ralph, Gus, and Ed are for, and Brickbat, Grif, and Chick against,
I suppose?said Franksurveying his company like a general
preparing for battle.
No, sir! I believe in co-everything!cried Chicka mild youth
who loyally escorted a chosen damsel home from school every
A laugh greeted this bold declarationand Chick sat downred but
I'll speak for two since the Chairman can't, and Jack won't go
against those who pet him most to death,said Joewhonot being
a favorite with the girlsconsidered them a nuisance and lost no
opportunity of telling them so.
Fire awaythensince you are up; commanded Frank.
Well,began Joefeeling too late how much he had undertaken
I don't know a great deal about it, and I don't care, but I do not
believe in having girls at college. They'd on't belong there, nobody
wants 'em, and they'd better be at home darning their stockings.
Yours, too,put in Ralphwho had heard that argument so often
he was tired of it.
Of course; that's what girls are for. I don't mind 'em at school, but
I'd just as soon they had a room to themselves. We should get on
You would if Mabel wasn't in your class and always ahead of
you,observed Edwhose friend was a fine scholarand he very
proud of the fact.
Look here, if you fellows keep interrupting, I won't sit down for
half an hour,said Joewell knowing that eloquence was not his
giftbut bound to have his say out.
Deep silence reignedfor that threat quelled the most impatient
memberand Joe prosed onusing all the arguments he had ever
heardand paying off several old scores by siy hits of a personal
natureas older orators often do.
It is clear to my mind that boys would get on better without any
girls fooling round. As for their being as smart as we are, it is all
nonsense, for some of 'em cry over their lessons every day, or go
home with headaches, or get mad and scold all recess, because
something 'isn't fair.' No, sir; girls ain't meant to know much, and
they can't. Wise folks say so and I believe 'em. Haven't got any
sisters myself, and I don't want any, for they'd on't seem to amount
to much, according to those who do have 'em.
Groans from Gus and Ed greeted the closing remarks of the
ungallant Joewho sat downfeeling that he had made somebody
squirm. Up jumped Grifthe delight of whose life was practical
jokeswhich amiable weakness made him the terror of the girls
though they had no other fault to find with the merry lad.
Mr. Chairman, the ground I take is this: girls have not the strength
to go to college with us. They couldn't row a race, go on a lark, or
take care of themselves, as we do. They are all well enough at
home, and I like them at parties, but for real fun and go I wouldn't
give a cent for them,began Grifwhose views of a collegiate life
were confined to the enjoyments rather than the studies of that
festive period. "I have tried themand they can't stand anything.
They scream if you tell them there is a mouse in the roomand run
if they see a big dog. I just put a cockroach in Molly's desk one
dayand when she opened it she jumped as if she was shot."
So did the gentlemen of the clubfor at that moment half-a-dozen
fire-crackers exploded under the chair Grif had leftand flew
wildly about the room. Order was with difficulty restoredthe
mischievous party summarily chastised and commanded to hold
his tongueunder penalty of ejectment from the room if he spoke
again. Firmly grasping that red and unruly memberGrif composed
himself to listenwith his nose in the air and his eyes shining like
Ed was always the peace-makerand nowwhen he rose with his
engaging smilehis voice fell like oil upon the troubled waters
and his bright face was full of the becoming bashfulness which
afflicts youths of seventeen when touching upon such subjects of
newly acquired interest as girls and their pleasant but perplexing
It seems to me we have hardly considered the matter enough to be
able to say much. But I think that school would be awfully dry and
dismal without--ahem!--any young ladies to make it nice. I
wouldn't give a pin to go if there was only a crowd of fellows,
though I like a good game as well as any man. I pity any boy who
has no sisters,continued Edwarming up as he thought of his
ownwho loved him dearlyas well they mightfor a better brother
never lived. "Home wouldn't be worth having without them to look
after a fellowto keep him out of scrapeshelp him with his
lessonsand make things jolly for his friends. I tell you we can't do
without girlsand I'm not ashamed to say that I think the more we
see of themand try to be like them in many waysthe better men
we shall be by and by."
Hear! hear!cried Frankin his deepest tonefor he heartily
agreed to thathaving talked the matter over with his motherand
received much light upon things which should always be set right
in young heads and hearts. And who can do this so wisely and well
as mothersif they only will?
Feeling that his sentiments had been approvedand he need not be
ashamed of the honest color in his cheeksEd sat down amid the
applause of his sideespecially of Jackwho pounded so
vigorously with his crutch that Mrs. Pecq popped in her head to
see if anything was wanted.
No, thank you, ma'am, we were only cheering Ed,said Gusnow
upon his legsand rather at a loss what to say till Mrs. Pecq's
appearance suggested an ideaand he seized upon it.
My honored friend has spoken so well that I have little to add. I
agree with him, and if you want an example of what girls can do,
why, look at Jill. She's young, I know, but a first-rate scholar for
her age. As for pluck, she is as brave as a boy, and almost as smart
at running, rowing, and so on. Of course, she can't play ball--no
girl can; their arms are not made right to throw--but she can catch
remarkably well. I'll say that for her. Now, if she and Mabel--and-and--
some others I could name, are so clever and strong at the
beginning, I don't see why they shouldn't keep up and go along
with us all through. I'm willing, and will do what I can to help
other fellows' sisters as I'd like to have them help mine. And I'll
punch their heads if they'd on't; and Gus subsidedassuredby a
burst of applausethat his manly way of stating the case met with
We shall be happy to hear from our senior member if he will
honor us with a few remarks,said Frankwith a bow to Ralph.
No one ever knew whom he would choose to personatefor he
never spoke in his own character. Now he rose slowlyput one
hand in his bosomand fixing his eye sternly on Crifwho was
doing something suspicious with a pingave them a touch of
Sergeant Buzfuzfrom the Pickwick trialthinking that the debate
was not likely to throw much light on the subject under discussion.
In the midst of this appeal to "Me lud and gentlemen of the jury
he suddenly paused, smoothed his hair down upon his forehead,
rolled up his eyes, and folding his hands, droned out Mr.
Chadband's sermon on Peace, delivered over poor Jo, and ending
with the famous lines:
Ohrunning stream of sparkling joy
To be a glorious human boy!"
Thensetting his hair erect with one comprehensive sweephe
caught up his coat-skirts over his armandassuming a
parliamentary attitudeburst into a comical medleycomposed of
extracts from Jefferson Brick's and Lafayette Kettle's speechesand
Elijah Pogram's Defiancefrom "Martin Chuzzlewit." Gazing at
Guswho was convulsed with suppressed merrimenthe thundered
In the name of our common country, sir, in the name of that
righteous cause in which we are jined, and in the name of the
star-spangled banner, I thank you for your eloquent and categorical
remarks. You, sir, are a model of a man fresh from Natur's mould.
A true-born child of this free hemisphere; verdant as the mountains
of our land; bright and flowin' as our mineral Licks; unspiled by
fashion as air our boundless perearers. Rough you may be; so air
our Barrs. Wild you may be; so air our Buff alers. But, sir, you air
a Child of Freedom, and your proud answer to the Tyrant is, that
your bright home is in the Settin' Sun. And, sir, if any man denies
this fact, though it be the British Lion himself, I defy him. Let me
have him here!--smiting the tableand causing the inkstand to
skip--"hereupon this sacred altar! Hereupon the ancestral ashes
cemented with the glorious blood poured out like water on the
plains of Chickabiddy Lick. Alone I'd are that Lionand tell him
that Freedom's hand once twisted in his manehe rolls a corse
before meand the Eagles of the Great Republic screamHaha!"
By this time the boys were rolling about in fits of laughter; even
sober Frank was red and breathlessand Jack lay backfeebly
squealingas he could laugh no more. In a moment Ralph was as
meek as a Quakerand sat looking about him with a mildly
astonished airas if inquiring the cause of such unseemly mirth. A
knock at the door produced a lulland in came a maid with apples.
Time's up; fall to and make yourselves comfortable,was the
summary way in which the club was released from its sterner
duties and permitted to unbend its mighty mind for a social
halfhourchiefly devoted to whistwith an Indian war-dance as a
Chapter 10 The Dramatic Club
While Jack was hopping gayly about on his crutchespoor Jill was
feeling the effects of her second falland instead of sitting upas
she hoped to do after six weeks of restshe was ordered to lie on a
board for two hours each day. Not an easy penanceby any means
for the board was very hardand she could do nothing while she
lay thereas it did not slope enough to permit her to read without
great fatigue of both eyes and hands. So the little martyr spent her
first hour of trial in sobbingthe second in singingfor just as her
mother and Mrs. Minot were deciding in despair that neither she
nor they could bear itJill suddenly broke out into a merry chorus
she used to hear her father sing:
Faut jouer le mirliton,
Faut jouer le mirlitir,
Faut jouer le mirliter,
The sound of the brave little voice was very comforting to the two
mothers hovering about herand Jack saidwith a look of mingled
pity and admirationas he brandished his crutch over the
That's right! Sing away, and we'll play you are an Indian captive
being tormented by your enemies, and too proud to complain. I'll
watch the clock, and the minute time is up I'll rush in and rescue
Jill laughedbut the fancy pleased herand she straightened herself
out under the gay afghanwhile she sangin a plaintive voice
another little French song her father taught her:
J'avais une colombe blanche,
J'avais un blanc petit pigeon,
Tous deu~ volaient, do branche en branche,
Jusqu'au falte de mon don geon:
Mais comme un coup do vent d'automne,
S'est abattu Za, I'‚per-vier,
Ft ma colombe si mignonne
Ne revient plus au colombier.
My poor Jean had a fine voice, and always hoped the child would
take after him. It would break his heart to see her lying there trying
to cheer her pain with the songs he used to sing her to sleep with,
said Mrs. Pecqsadly.
She really has a great deal of talent, and when she is able she
shall have some lessons, for music is a comfort and a pleasure,
sick or well,answered Mrs. Minotwho had often admired the
fresh voicewith its pretty accent.
Here Jill began the Canadian boat-songwith great vigoras if
bound to play her part of Indian victim with spiritand not disgrace
herself by any more crying. All knew the airand joined in
especially Jackwho came out strong on the "Rowbrothersrow
but ended in a squeak on a high note, so drolly, that the rest broke
down. So the hour that began with tears ended with music and
laughter, and a new pleasure to think of for the future.
After that day Jill exerted all her fortitude, for she liked to have the
boys call her brave and admire the cheerful way in which she
endured two hours of discomfort. She found she could use her
zither as it lay upon her breast, and every day the pretty music
began at a certain hour, and all in the house soon learned to love
and listen for it. Even the old cook set open her kitchen door,
saying pitifully, Poor darlinthear how purty she's singin'wid the
painon that crewel boord. It's a little saintshe is. May her bed
above be aisy!"
Frank would lift her gently on and offwith a kind word that
comforted her immenselyand gentle Ed would come and teach
her new bits of musicwhile the other fellows were frolicking
below. Ralph added his share to her amusementfor he asked leave
to model her head in clayand set up his work in a cornerCorning
to patscrapeand mould whenever he had a spare minute
amusing her by his lively chatand showing her how to shape
birdsrabbitsand queer faces in the soft claywhen the songs
were all sung and her fingers tired of the zither.
The girls sympathized very heartily with her new trialand brought
all manner of gifts to cheer her captivity. Merry and Molly made a
gay screen by pasting pictures on the black cambric which covered
the folding frame that stood before her to keep the draughts from
her as she lay on her board. Bright birds and flowersfigures and
animalscovered one sideand on the other they put mottoesbits
of poetryanecdotesand short storiesso that Jill could lie and
look or read without the trouble of holding a book. It was not all
done at oncebut grew slowlyand was a source of instruction as
well as amusement to them allas they read carefullythat they
might make good Selections.
But the thing that pleased Jill most was something Jack didfor he
gave up going to schooland stayed at home nearly a fortnight
after he might have goneall for her sake. The day the doctor said
he might try it if he would be very carefulhe was in great spirits
and limped aboutlooking up his booksand planning how he
would astonish his mates by the rapidity of his recovery. When he
sat down to rest he remembered Jillwho had been lying quietly
behind the screenwhile he talked with his motherbusy putting
fresh covers on the books.
She is so still, I guess she is asleep,thought Jackpeeping round
Nonot asleepbut lying with her eyes fixed on the sunny window
beyond which the bright winter world sparkled after a fresh
snow-fall. The jingle of sleigh-bells could be heardthe laughter of
boys and girls on their way to schoolall the pleasant stir of a new
day of happy work and play for the rest of the worldmore lonely
quietand wearisome than ever to her since her friend and
fellow-prisoner was set free and going to leave her.
Jack understood that patientwistful lookandwithout a word
went back to his seatstaring at the fire so soberlythat his mother
presently asked: "What are you thinking of so busilywith that
pucker in your forehead?"
I've about made up my mind that I won't go to school just yet,
answered Jackslowly lifting his headfor it cost him something to
give up the long-expected pleasure.
Why not?and Mrs. Minot looked much surprisedtill Jack
pointed to the screenandmaking a sad face to express Jill's
anguishanswered in a cheerful tone'WellI'm not sure that it is
best. Doctor did not want me to gobut said I might because I
teased. I shall be sure to come to griefand then everyone will say
'I told you so' and that is so provoking. I'd rather keep still a week
longer. Hadn't I better?"
His mother smiled and nodded as she saidsewing away at
much-abused old Caesaras if she loved himDo as you think
best, dear. I always want you at home, but I don't wonder you are
rather tired of it after this long confinement.
I say, Jill, should I be in your way if I didn't go to school till the
first of February?called Jacklaughing to himself at the absurdity
of the question.
Not much!answered a glad voice from behind the screenand he
knew the sorrowful eyes were shining with delightthough he
could not see them.
Well, I guess I may as well, and get quite firm on my legs before I
start. Another week or so will bring me up if I study hard, so I shall
not lose my time. I'll tackle my Latin as soon as it's ready, mother.
Jack got a hearty kiss with the neatly covered bookand Mamma
loved him for the little sacrifice more than if he had won a prize at
school. He did get a rewardforin five minutes from the time he
decidedJill was singing like a bobolinkand such a medley of
merry music came from behind the screenthat it was a regular
morning concert. She did not know then that he stayed for her
sakebut she found it out soon afterand when the time came did
as much for himas we shall see.
It proved a wise decisionfor the last part of January was so
stormy Jack could not have gone half the time. Sowhile the snow
driftedand bitter winds ragedhe sat snugly at home amusing Jill
and getting on bravely with his lessonsfor Frank took great pains
with him to show his approbation of the little kindnessand
somehowthe memory of it seemed to make even the detested
With February fair weather set inand Jack marched happily away
to schoolwith Jill's new mittens on his handsMamma nodding
from the door-stepand Frank ready to give him a lift on the new
sledif the way proved too long or too rough.
I shall not have time to miss him now, for we are to be very busy
getting ready for the Twenty-second. The Dramatic Club meets
to-night, and would like to come here, if they may, so 1 can help?
said Jillas Mrs. Minot came upexpecting to find her rather low
in her mind.
Certainly; and I have a basket of old finery I looked up for the
club when I was rummaging out bits of silk for your blue quilt,
answered the good ladywho had set up a new employment to
beguile the hours of Jack's absence.
When the girls arrivedthat eveningthey found Mrs. Chairwoman
surrounded by a strew of theatrical propertiesenjoying herself
very much. All brought such contributions as they could muster
and all were eager about a certain tableau which was to be the gem
of the wholethey thought. Jillof coursewas not expected to take
any partbut her taste was goodso all consulted her as they
showed their old silkslacesand flowersasking who should be
thisand who that. All wanted to be the "Sleeping Beauty for that
was the chosen scene, with the slumbering court about the
princess, and the prince in the act of awakening her. Jack was to be
the hero, brave in his mother's velvet cape, red boots, and a real
sword, while the other boys were to have parts of more or less
Mabel should be the Beautybecause her hair is so lovely said
Juliet, who was quite satisfied with her own part of the Queen.
NoMerry ought to have itas she is the prettiestand has that
splendid veil to wear answered Molly, who was to be the maid of
honor, cuffing the little page, Boo.
I don't care a bitbut my feather would be fine for the Princess
and I don't know as Emma would like to have me lend it to anyone
else said Annette, waving a long white plume over her head, with
girlish delight in its grace.
I should think the white silk dressthe veiland the feather ought
to go togetherwith the scarlet crape shawl and these pearls. That
would be sweetand just what princesses really wear advised Jill,
who was stringing a quantity of old Roman pearls.
We all want to wear the nice thingsso let us draw lots. Wouldn't
that be the fairest way?" asked Merrylooking like a rosy little
brideunder a great piece of illusionwhich had done duty in many
The Prince is light, so the Princess must be darkish. We ought to
choose the girl who will look best, as it is a picture. I heard Miss
Delano say so, when the ladies got up the tableaux, last winter, and
everyone wanted to be Cleopatra,said Jill decidedly.
You choose, and then if we can't agree we will draw lots,
proposed Susywhobeing plainknew there was little hope of her
getting a chance in any other way.
So all stood in a rowand Jillfrom her sofasurveyed them
criticallyfeeling that the one Jack would really prefer was not
among the number.
I choose that one, for Juliet wants to be Queen, Molly would
make faces, and the others are too big or too light,pronounced
Jillpointing to Merrywho looked pleasedwhile Mabel's face
darkenedand Susy gave a disdainful sniff.
You'd better draw lots, and then there will be no fuss. Ju and I are
out of the fight, but you three can try, and let this settle the
matter,said Mollyhanding Jill a long strip of paper.
All agreed to let it be soand when the bits were ready drew in
turn. This time fate was evidently on Merry's sideand no one
grumbled when she showed the longest paper.
Go and dress, then come back, and we'll plan how we are to be
placed before we call up the boys,commanded Jillwho was
managersince she could be nothing else.
The girls retired to the bedroom and began to "rig up as they
called it; but discontent still lurked among them, and showed itself
in sharp words, envious looks, and disobliging acts.
Am I to have the white silk and the feather?" asked Merry
delighted with the silvery shimmer of the one and the graceful
droop of the otherthough both were rather shabby.
You can use your own dress. I don't see why you should have
everything,answered Susywho was at the mirrorputting a
wreath of scarlet flowers on her red headbound to be gay since
she could not be pretty.
I think I'd better keep the plume, as I haven't anything else that is
nice, and I'm afraid Emma wouldn't like me to lend it,added
Annettewho was disappointed that Mabel was not to be the
1 don't intend to act at all!declared Mabelbeginning to braid up
her hair with a jerkout of humor with the whole affair.
1 think you are a set of cross, selfish girls to back out and keep
your nice things just because you can't all have the best part. I'm
ashamed of you!scolded Mollystanding by Merrywho was
sadly surveying her mother's old purple silkwhich looked like
brown in the evening.
I'm going to have Miss Delano's red brocade for the Queen, and I
shall ask her for the yellow-satin dress for Merry when I go to get
mine, and tell her how mean you are,said Julietfrowning under
her gilt-paper crown as she swept about in a red table-S cloth for
train till the brocade arrived.
Perhaps you'd like to have Mabel cut her hair off, so Merry can
have that, too?cried Susywith whom hair was a tender point.
Light hair isn't wanted, so Ju will have to give hers, or you'd better
borrow Miss Bat's frisette,added Mabelwith a scornful laugh.
I just wish Miss Bat was here to give you girls a good shaking. Do
let someone else have a chance at the glass, you peacock!
exclaimed Molly Loopushing Susy aside to arrange her own blue
turbanout of which she plucked the pink pompon to give Merry.
Don't quarrel about me. I shall do well enough, and the scarlet
shawl will hide my ugly dress,said Merryfrom the cornerwhere
she sat waiting for her turn at the mirror.
As she spoke of the shawl her eye went in search of itand
something that she saw in the other room put her own
disappointment out of her head. Jill lay there all alonerather tired
with the lively chatterand the effort it cost her not to repine at
being shut out from the great delight of dressing up and acting.
Her eyes were closedher net was offand all the pretty black curls
lay about her shoulders as one hand idly pulled them outwhile the
other rested on the red shawlas if she loved its glowing color and
soft texture. She was humming to herself the little song of the dove
and the donjonand something in the plaintive voicethe solitary
figurewent straight to Merry's gentle heart.
Poor Jilly can't have any of the fun,was the first thought; then
came a secondthat made Merry start and smileand in a minute
whisper so that all but Jill could hear herGirls, I'm not going to
be the Princess. But I've thought of a splendid one!
'Who?" asked the reststaring at one anothermuch surprised by
this sudden announcement.
Hush! Speak low, or you will spoil it all. Look in the Bird Room,
and tell me if that isn't a prettier Princess than I could make?
They all lookedbut no one spokeand Merry addedwith sweet
eagernessIt is the only thing poor Jill can be, and it would make
her so happy; Jack would like it, and it would please everyone, I
know. Perhaps she will never walk again, so we ought to be very
good to her, poor dear.
The last wordswhispered with a little quiver in the voicesettled
the matter better than hours of talkingfor girls are tenderhearted
creaturesand not one of these but would have gladly given all the
pretty things she owned to see Jill dancing about well and strong
again. Like a ray of sunshine the kind thought touched and
brightened every face; envyimpatiencevanityand discontent
flew away like imps at the coming of the good fairyand with one
accord they all cried
It will be lovely; let us go and tell her!
Forgetting their own adornmentout they trooped after Merrywho
ran to the sofasayingwith a smile which was reflected in all the
other facesJill, dear, we have chosen another Princess, and I
know you'll like her.
Who is it?asked Jilllanguidlyopening her eyes without the
least suspicion of the truth.
I'll show you; and taking the cherished veil from her own head
Merry dropped it like a soft cloud over Jill; Annette added the long
plumeSusy laid the white silk dress about herwhile Juliet and
Mabel lifted the scarlet shawl to spread it over the foot of the sofa
and Molly tore the last ornament from her turbana silver starto
shine on Jill's breast. Then they all took hands and danced round
the couchsingingas they laughed at her astonishmentThere she
is! There she is! Princess Jill as fine as you please!
Do you really mean it? But can I? Is it fair? How sweet of you!
Come here and let me hug you all!" cried Jillin a rapture at the
surpriseand the pretty way in which it was done.
The grand scene on the Twenty-second was very fineindeed; but
the little tableau of that minute was infinitely betterthough no one
saw itas Jill tried to gather them all in her armsfor that nosegay
of girlish faces was the sweeterbecause each one bad sacrificed
her own little vanity to please a friendand her joy was reflected in
the eyes that sparkled round the happy Princess.
Oh, you dear, kind things, to think of me and give me all your
best clothes! I never shall forget it, and I'll do anything for you.
Yes! I'll write and ask Mrs. Piper to lend us her ermine cloak for
the king. See if I don't!
Shrieks of delight hailed this noble offerfor no one had dared to
borrow the much-coveted mantlebut all agreed that the old lady
would not refuse Jill. It was astonishing how smoothly everything
went after thisfor each was eager to helpadmireand suggestin
the friendliest way; and when all were dressedthe boys found a
party of very gay ladies waiting for them round the couchwhere
lay the brightest little Princess ever seen.
Oh, Jack, I'm to act! Wasn't it dear of the girls to choose me?
Don't they look lovely? Aren't you glad?cried Jillas the lads
stared and the lasses blushed and smiledwell pleased at the frank
admiration the boyish faces showed.
I guess I am! You are a set of trumps, and we'll give you a
first-class spread after the play to pay for it. Won't we, fellows?
answered Jackmuch gratifiedand feeling that now he could act
his own part capitally.
We will. It was a handsome thing to do, and we think well of you
for it. Hey, Gus?and Frank nodded approvingly at allthough he
looked only at Annette.
As king of this crowd, I call it to order,said Gusretiring to the
thronewhere Juliet sat laughing in her red table-cloth.
We'll have 'The Fair One with Golden Locks' next time; I promise
you that,whispered Ed to Mabelwhose shining hair streamed
over her blue dress like a mantle of gold-colored silk.
Girls are pretty nice things, aren't they? Kind of 'em to take Jill in.
Don't Molly look fine, though?and Grif's black eyes twinkled as
he planned to pin her skirts to Merry's at the first opportunity.
Susy looks as gay as a feather-duster. I like her. She never snubs a
fellow,said Joemuch impressed with the splendor of the court
The boys' costumes were not yet readybut they posed welland all
had a merry timeending with a game of blind-man's-buffin
which everyone caught the right person in the most singular way
and all agreed as they went home in the moonlight that it had been
an ususually jolly meeting.
So the fairy play woke the sleeping beauty that lies in all of usand
makes us lovely when we rouse it with a kiss of unselfish
good-willforthough the girls did not know it thenthey had
adorned themselves with pearls more precious than the waxen
ones they'd ecked their Princess in.
Chapter 11 "Down Brakes"
The greatest people have their weak pointsand the best-behaved
boys now and then yield to temptation and get into troubleas
everybody knows. Frank was considered a remarkably well-bred
and proper ladand rather prided himself on his good reputation
for he never got into scrapes like the other fellows. Wellhardly
everfor we must confess that at rare intervals his besetting sin
overcame his prudenceand he proved himself an erringhuman
boy. Steam-engines had been his idols for yearsand they alone
could lure him from the path of virtue. Oncein trying to
investigate the mechanism of a toy specimenwhich had its little
boiler and ran about whistling and puffing in the most delightful
wayhe nearly set the house afire by the sparks that dropped on the
straw carpet. Another timein trying experiments with the kitchen
tea-kettlehe blew himself upand the scars of that explosion he
still carried on his hands.
He was long past such childish amusements nowbut his favorite
haunt was the engine-house of the new railroadwhere he observed
the habits of his pets with never-failing interestand cultivated the
good-will of stokers and brakemen till they allowed him many
libertiesand were rather flattered by the admiration expressed for
their iron horses by a young gentleman who liked them better even
than his Greek and Latin.
There was not much business doing on this road as yetand the
two cars of the passenger-trains were often nearly emptythough
full freight-trains rolled from the factory to the main roadof
which this was only a branch. So things went on in a leisurely
mannerwhich gave Frank many opportunities of pursuing his
favorite pastime. He soon knew all about No. iihis pet engine
and had several rides on it with Billthe engineerso that he felt at
home thereand privately resolved that when he was a rich man he
would have a road of his ownand run trains as often as he liked.
Gus took less interest than his friend in the study of steambut
usually accompanied him when he went over after school to
disport himself in the engine-houseinterview the stokeror see if
there was anything new in the way of brakes.
One afternoon they found No. 11 on the side-trackpuffing away
as if enjoying a quiet smoke before starting. No cars were attached
and no driver was to be seenfor Bill was off with the other men
behind the station-househelping the expressmanwhose horse had
backed down a bank and upset the wagon.
Good chance for a look at the old lady,said Frankspeaking of
the engine as Bill didand jumping aboard with great satisfaction
followed by Gus.
I'd give ten dollars if I could run her up to the bend and back,he
addedfondly touching the bright brass knobs and glancing at the
fire with a critical eye.
You couldn't do it alone,answered Gussitting down on the
grimy little perchwilling to indulge his mate's amiable weakness.
Give me leave to try? Steam is up, and I could do it as easy as
not; and Frank put his hand on the throttle-valveas if daring Gus
to give the word.
Fire up and make her hum!laughed Gusquoting Bill's frequent
order to his matebut with no idea of being obeyed.
All right; I'll just roll her up to the switch and back again. I've
often done it with Bill; and Frank cautiously opened the
throttle-valvethrew back the leverand the great thing moved
with a throb and a puff.
Steady, old fellow, or you'll come to grief. Here, don't open that!
shouted Gusfor just at that moment Joe appeared at the switch
looking ready for mischief.
Wish he would; no train for twenty minutes, and we could run up
to the bend as well as not,said Frankgetting excited with the
sense of poweras the monster obeyed his hand so entirely that it
was impossible to resist prolonging the delight.
By George, he has! Stop her! Back her! Hold on, Frank!cried
Gusas Joeonly catching the words "Open that!" obeyedwithout
the least idea that they would dare to leave the siding.
But they didfor Frank rather lost his head for a minuteand out
upon the main track rolled No. 11 as quietly as a well-trained
horse taking a familiar road.
Now you've done it! I'll give you a good thrashing when I get
back!roared Gusshaking his fist at Joewho stood staring
half-pleasedhalf-scaredat what he had done.
Are you really going to try it?asked Gusas they glided on with
increasing speedand hetoofelt the charm of such a novel
adventurethough the consequences bid fair to be serious.
Yes, I am,answered Frankwith the grim look he always wore
when his strong will got the upper hand. "Bill will give it to us
anywayso we may as well have our fun out. If you are afraidI'll
slow down and you can jump off and his brown eyes sparkled
with the double delight of getting his heart's desire and astonishing
his friend at the same time by his skill and coolness.
Go ahead. I'll jump when you do"; and Gus calmly sat down
againbound in honor to stand by his mate till the smash came
though rather dismayed at the audacity of the prank.
Don't you call this just splendid?exclaimed Frankas they rolled
along over the crossingpast the bridgetoward the curvea mile
from the station.
Not bad. They are yelling like mad after us. Better go back, if you
can,said Guswho was anxiously peering outandin spite of his
efforts to seem at easenot enjoying the trip a particle.
Let them yell. I started to go to the curve, and I'll do it if it costs
me a hundred dollars. No danger; there's no train under twenty
minutes, I tell you,and Frank pulled out his watch. But the sun
was in his eyesand he did not see clearlyor he would have
discovered that it was later than he thought.
On they wentand were just rounding the bend when a shrill
whistle in front startled both boysand drove the color out of their
It's the factory train!cried Gusin a husky toneas he sprang to
No; it's the five-forty on the other road,answered Frankwith a
queer thrill all through him at the thought of what might happen if
it was not. Both looked straight ahead as the last tree glided by
and the long track lay before themwith the freight train slowly
coming down. For an instantthe boys stood as if paralyzed.
Jump!said Guslooking at the steep bank on one side and the
river on the otherundecided which to try.
Sit still!commanded Frankcollecting his witsas he gave a
warning whistle to retard the on-coming trainwhile he reversed
the engine and went back faster than he came.
A crowd of angry men was waiting for themand Bill stood at the
open switch in a towering passion as No. 11 returned to her place
unharmedbut bearing two pale and frightened boyswho stepped
slowly and silently downwithout a word to say for themselves
while the freight train rumbled by on the main track.
Frank and Gus never had a very clear idea as to what occurred
during the next few minutesbut vaguely remembered being well
shakensworn atquestionedthreatened with direful penalties
and finally ordered off the premises forever by the wrathful
depot-master. Joe was nowhere to be seenand as the two culprits
walked awaytrying to go steadilywhile their heads spun round
and all the strength seemed to have departed from their legsFrank
saidin an exhausted tone
Come down to the boat-house and rest a minute.
Both were glad to get out of sightand dropped upon the steps red
rumpledand breathlessafter the late exciting scene. Gus
generously forebore to speakthough he felt that he was the least
to blame; and Frankafter eating a bit of snow to moisten his dry
Now, don't you worry, old man. I'll pay the damages, for it was
my fault. Joe will dodge, but I won't, so make your mind easy.
We sha'n't hear the last of this in a hurry responded Gus,
relieved, yet anxious, as he thought of the reprimand his father
would give him.
I hope mother won't hear of it till I tell her quietly myself. She
will be so frightenedand think I'm surely smashed upif she is
told in a hurry"; and Frank gave a shiveras all the danger he had
run came over him suddenly.
I thought we were done for when we saw that train. Guess we
should have been if you had not had your wits about you. I always
said you were a cool one; and Gus patted Frank's back with a look
of great admirationfornow that it was all overhe considered it a
very remarkable performance.
Which do you suppose it will be, fine or imprisonment?asked
Frankafter sitting in a despondent attitude for a moment.
Shouldn't wonder if it was both. Running off with an engine is no
joke, you know.
'What did possess me to be such a fool?" groaned Frankrepenting
all too lateof yielding to the temptation which assailed him.
Bear up, old fellow, I'll stand by you; and if the worst comes, I'll
call as often as the rules of the prison allow,said Gus
consolinglyas he gave his afflicted friend an armand they
walked awayboth feeling that they were marked men from that
MeantimeJoeas soon as he recovered from the shock of seeing
the boys actually go offran awayas fast as his legs could carry
himto prepare Mrs. Minot for the ioss of her son; for the idea of
their coming safely back never occurred to himhis knowledge of
engines being limited. A loud ring at the bell brought Mrs. Pecq
who was guarding the housewhile Mrs. Minot entertained a
parlor full of company.
Frank's run off with No. 11, and he'll be killed sure. Thought I'd
come up and tell you,stammered Joeall out of breath and
He got no furtherfor Mrs. Pecq clapped one hand over his mouth
caught him by the collar with the otherand hustled him into the
ante-room before anyone else could hear the bad news.
Tell me all about it, and don't shout. What's come to the boy?she
demandedin a tone that reduced Joe to a whisper at once.
Go right back and see what has happened to him, then come and
tell me quietly. I'll wait for you here. I wouldn't have his mother
startled for the world,said the good soulwhen she knew all.
Oh, I dar'sn't! I opened the switch as they told me to, and Bill will
half kill me when he knows it!cried Joein a panicas the awful
consequences of his deed rose before himshowing both boys
mortally injured and several trains wrecked.
Then take yourself off home and hold your tongue. I'll watch the
door, for I won't have any more ridiculous boys tearing in to
disturb my lady.
Mrs. Pecq often called this good neighbor "my lady" when
speaking of herfor Mrs. Minot was a true gentlewomanand
much pleasanter to live with than the titled mistress had been.
Joe scudded away as if the constable was after himand presently
Frank was seen slowly approaching with an unusually sober face
and a pair of very dirty hands.
Thank heaven, he's safe!andsoftly opening the doorMrs. Pecq
actually hustled the young master into the ante-room as
unceremoniously as she had hustled Joe.
I beg pardon, but the parlor is full of company, and that fool of a
Joe came roaring in with a cock-and-bull story that gave me quite
a turn. What is it, Mr. Frank?she asked eagerlyseeing that
something was amiss.
He told her in a few wordsand she was much relieved to find that
no harm had been done.
Ah, the danger is to come,said Frankdarklyas be went away to
wash his hands and prepare to relate his misdeeds.
It was a very bad quarter of an hour for the poor fellowwho so
seldom had any grave faults to confess; but he did it manfullyand
his mother was so grateful for the safety of her boy that she found
it difficult to be severe enoughand contented herself with
forbidding any more visits to the too charming No. 11.
What do you suppose will be done to me?asked Frankon whom
the idea of imprisonment had made a deep impression.
I don't know, dear, but I shall go over to see Mr. Burton right
after tea. He will tell us what to do and what to expect. Gus must
not suffer for your fault.
He'll come off clear enough, but Joe must take his share, for if he
hadn't opened that confounded switch, no harm would have been
done. But when I saw the way clear, I actually couldn't resist going
ahead,said Frankgetting excited again at the memory of that
blissful moment when he started the engine.
Here Jack came hurrying inhaving heard the newsand refused to
believe it from any lips but Frank's. When he could no longer
doubthe was so much impressed with the daring of the deed that
he had nothing but admiration for his brothertill a sudden thought
made him clap his hands and exclaim exultingly
His runaway beats mine all hollow, and now he can't crow over
me! Won't that be a comfort? The good boy has got into a scrape.
This was such a droll way of taking itthat they had to laugh; and
Frank took his humiliation so meekly that Jack soon fell to
comforting himinstead of crowing over him.
Jill thought it a most interesting event; andwhen Frank and his
mother went over to consult Mr. Burtonshe and Jack planned out
for the dear culprit a dramatic trial which would have convulsed
the soberest of judges. His sentence was ten years' imprisonment
and such heavy fines that the family would have been reduced to
beggary but for the sums made by Jill's fancy work and Jack's
success as a champion pedestrian.
They found such comfort and amusement in this sensational
programme that they were rather disappointed when Frank
returnedreporting that a fine would probably be all the penalty
exactedas no harm had been doneand he and Gus were such
respectable boys. What would happen to Joehe could not tellbut
he thought a good whipping ought to be added to his share.
Of coursethe affair made a stir in the little world of children; and
when Frank went to schoolfeeling that his character for good
behavior was forever damagedhe found himself a lionand was in
danger of being spoiled by the admiration of his comradeswho
pointed him out with pride as "the fellow who ran off with a
But an interview with Judge Kemblea fine of twenty-five dollars
and lectures from all the grown people of his acquaintance
prevented him from regarding his escapade as a feat to boast of.
He discoveredalsohow fickle a thing is public favorfor very
soon those who had praised began to teaseand it took all his
couragepatienceand pride to carry him through the next week or
two. The lads were never tired of alluding to No. 11giving shrill
whistles in his earasking if his watch was rightand drawing
locomotives on the blackboard whenever they got a chance.
The girlstoohad sly nods and smileshints and jokes of a milder
sortwhich made him color and fumeand once lose his dignity
entirely. Molly Loowho dearly loved to torment the big boysand
dared attack even solemn Frankleft one of Boo's old tin trains on
the door-stepdirected to "Conductor Minot who, I regret to say,
could not refrain from kicking it into the Street, and slamming the
door with a bang that shook the house. Shrieks of laughter from
wicked Molly and her coadjutor, Grif, greeted this explosion of
wrath, which did no good, however, for half an hour later the same
cars, all in a heap, were on the steps again, with two headless dolls
tumbling out of the cab, and the dilapidated engine labelled, No.
11 after the collision."
No one ever saw that ruin againand for days Frank was utterly
unconscious of Molly's existenceas propriety forbade his having
it out with her as he had with Grif. Then Annette made peace
between themand the approach of the Twenty-second gave the
wags something else to think of.
But it was long before Frank forgot that costly prank; for he was a
thoughtful boywho honestly wanted to be good; so he
remembered this episode humblyand whenever he felt the
approach of temptation he made the strong will master itsaying to
himself "Down brakes!" thus saving the precious freight he carried
from many of the accidents which befall us when we try to run our
trains without ordersand so often wreck ourselves as well as
Chapter 12 The Twenty-Second of February
Of coursethe young ladies and gentlemen had a ball on the
evening of that daybut the boys and girls were full of excitement
about their "Scenes from the Life of Washington and other brilliant
tableaux as the programme announced. The Bird Room was the
theatre, being very large, with four doors conveniently placed.
Ralph was in his element, putting up a little stage, drilling boys,
arranging groups, and uniting in himself carpenter, scene-painter,
manager, and gas man. Mrs. Minot permitted the house to be
turned topsy-turvy, and Mrs. Pecq flew about, lending a hand
everywhere. Jill was costumer, with help from Miss Delano, who
did not care for balls, and kindly took charge of the girls. Jack
printed tickets, programmes, and placards of the most imposing
sort, and the work went gayly on till all was ready.
When the evening came, the Bird Room presented a fine
appearance. One end was curtained off with red drapery; and real
footlights, with tin shades, gave a truly theatrical air to the little
stage. Rows of chairs, filled with mammas and little people,
occupied the rest of the space. The hall and Frank's room were full
of amused papas, uncles, and old gentlemen whose patriotism
brought them out in spite of rheumatism. There was a great
rustling of skirts, fluttering of fans, and much lively chat, till a bell
rang and the orchestra struck up.
Yes, there really was an orchestra, for Ed declared that the national
airs must be played, or the whole thing would be a failure. So he
had exerted himself to collect all the musical talent he could find,
a horn, a fiddle, and a flute, with drum and fife for the martial
scenes. Ed looked more beaming than ever, as he waved his baton
and led off with Yankee Doodle as a safe beginning, for everyone
knew that. It was fun to see little Johnny Cooper bang away on a
big drum, and old Mr. Munson, who had been a flEer all his days,
blow till he was as red as a lobster, while everyone kept time to the
music which put them all in good spirits for the opening scene.
Up went the curtain and several trees in tubs appeared, then a
stately gentleman in small clothes, cocked hat, gray wig, and an
imposing cane, came slowly walking in. It was Gus, who had been
unanimously chosen not only for Washington but for the f ather of
the hero also, that the family traits of long legs and a somewhat
massive nose might be preserved.
Ahem! My trees are doing finely observed Mr. W., senior,
strolling along with his hands behind him, casting satisfied glances
at the dwarf orange, oleander, abutilon, and little pine that
represented his orchard.
Suddenly he starts, pauses, frowns, and, after examining the latter
shrub, which displayed several hacks in its stem and a broken limb
with six red-velvet cherries hanging on it, he gave a thump with
his cane that made the little ones jump, and cried out,
Can it have been my son?"
He evidently thought it wasfor he calledin tones of thunder
George! George Washington, come hither this moment!
Great suspense on the part of the audiencethen a general burst of
laughter as Boo trotted ina perfect miniature of his honored
parentknee breechescocked hatshoe buckles and all. He was so
fat that the little tails of his coat stuck out in the drollest wayhis
chubby legs could hardly carry the big bucklesand the rosy face
displayedwhen he took his hat off with a dutiful bowwas so
solemnthe real George could not have looked more anxious when
he gave the immortal answer.
Sirrah, did you cut that tree?demanded the papawith another
rap of the caneand such a frown that poor Boo looked dismayed
till Molly wisperedPut your hand up, dear.Then he
remembered his partandputting one finger in his mouthlooked
down at his square-toed shoesthe image of a shame-stricken boy.
My son, do not deceive me. If you have done this deed I shall
chastise you, for it is my duty not to spare the rod, lest I spoil the
child. But if you lie about it you disgrace the name of Washington
This appeal seemed to convulse George with inward agonyfor he
squirmed most effectively as he drew from his pocket a toy
hatchetwhich would not have cut a strawthen looking straight up
into the awe-inspiring countenance of his parenthe bravely lisped
Papa, I tannot tell a lie. I'd id tut it with my little hanchet.
Noble boy--come to my arms! I had rather you spoilt all my
cherry trees than tell one lie!cried the delighted gentleman
catching his son in an embrace so close that the fat legs kicked
convulsivelyand the little coat-tails waved in the breezewhile
cane and hatchet fell with a dramatic bang.
The curtain descended on this affccting tableau; but the audience
called out both Washingtonsand they camehand in handbowing
with the cocked hats pressed to their breaststhe elder smiling
blandlywhile the youngerstill flushed by his exertionsnodded to
his friendsaskingwith engaging franknessWasn't it nice?
The next was a marine piecefor a boat was seensurrounded by
tumultuous waves of blue cambricand rowed by a party of
stalwart men in regimentalswho with difficulty kept their seats
for the boat was only a painted boardand they sat on boxes or
stools behind it. But few marked the rowersfor in their midsttall
straightand steadfast as a maststood one figure in a cloakwith
folded armshigh bootsandunder the turned-up hata noble
countenancestern with indomitable courage. A sword glittered at
his sideand a banner waved over himbut his eye was fixed on
the distant shoreand he was evidently unconscious of the roaring
billowsthe blocks of icethe discouragement of his menor the
danger and death that might await him. Napoleon crossing the
Alps was not half so sublimeand with one voice the audiencc
cried'Washington crossing the Delaware!" while the band burst
forth withSee, the conquering hero comes!all out of tunebut
bound to play it or die in the attempt.
It would have been very successful ifall of a suddenone of the
rowers had not "caught a crab" with disastrous consequences. The
oars were not movingbut a veteranwho looked very much like
Joedropped the one he heldand in trying to turn and pummel the
black-eyed warrior behind himhe tumbled off his seatupsetting
two other menand pulling the painted boat upon them as they lay
kicking in the cambric deep. Shouts of laughter greeted this
mishapbut George Washington never stirred. Grasping the
bannerhe stood firm when all else went down in the general
wreckand the icy waves engulfed his gallant crewleaving him
erect amid a chaos of wildly tossing bootsentangled oarsand
red-faced victims. Such god-like dignity could not fail to impress
the frivolous crowd of laughersand the curtain fell amid a round
of applause for him alone.
Quite exciting, wasn't it? Didn't know Gus had so much presence
of mind,said Mr. Burtonwell pleased with his boy.
If we did not know that Washington died in his bed, December
14, 1799, I should fear that we'd seen the last of him in that
shipwreck,laughed an old gentlemanproud of his memory for
Much confusion reigned behind the scenes; Ralph was heard
scoldingand Joe set everyone off again by explainingaudibly
that Grif tickled himand he couldn't stand it. A pretty
old-fashioned picture of the "Daughters of Liberty" followedfor
girls were determined to do honor to the brave and patient women
who so nobly bore their part in the struggleyet are usually
forgotten when those days are celebrated. The damsels were
charming in the big capsflowered gownsand high-heeled shoes
of their great-grandmothersas they sat about a spider-legged table
talking over the taxand pledging themselves to drink no more tea
till it was taken off. Molly was on her feet proposingLiberty
forever, and down with all tyrants,to judge from her flashing eyes
as she held her egg-shell cup aloftwhile the others lifted theirs to
drink the toastand Merryas hostesssat with her hand on an
antique teapotlabelled "Sage ready to fill again when the
patriotic ladies were ready for a second dish."
This was much applaudedand the curtain went up againfor the
proud parents enjoyed seeing their pretty girls in the faded finery
of a hundred years ago. The band played "Auld Lang Syne as a
gentle hint that our fore-mothers should be remembered as well as
It was evident that something very martial was to follow, for a
great tramping, clashing, and flying about took place behind the
scenes while the tea-party was going on. After some delay, The
Surrender of Cornwallis" was presented in the most superb
manneras you can believe when I tell you that the stage was
actually lined with a glittering array of Washington and his
generalsLafayetteKosciuskoRochambeau and the restall in
astonishing uniformswith swords which were evidently the pride
of their lives. Fife and drum struck up a marchand in came
Cornwallismuch cast down but full of manly resignationas he
surrendered his swordand stood aside with averted eyes while his
army marched pastpiling their arms at the hero's feet.
This scene was the delight of the boysfor the rifles of Company F
had been securedand at least a dozen soldiers kept filing in and
out in British uniform till Washington's august legs were hidden by
the heaps of arms rattled down before him. The martial musicthe
steady trampand the patriotic memories awakenedcaused this
scene to be enthusiastically encoredand the boys would have
gone on marching till midnight if Ralph had not peremptorily
ordered down the curtain and cleared the stage for the next
This had been artfully slipped in between two brilliant onesto
show that the Father of his Country had to pay a high price for his
glory. The darkened stage represented what seemed to be a camp
in a snow-stormand a very forlorn camptoo; for on "the cold
cold ground" (a reckless display of cotton batting) lay ragged
soldierssleeping without blanketstheir worn-out boots turned up
patheticallyand no sign of food or fire to be seen. A very shabby
sentinelwith feet bound in bloody clothsand his face as pale as
chalk could make itgnawed a dry crust as he kept his watch in the
A tent at the back of the stage showed a solitary figure sitting on a
log of woodporing over the map spread upon his kneeby the
light of one candle stuck in a bottle. There could be no doubt who
this wasfor the buff-and-blue coatthe legsthe nosethe attitude
all betrayed the great George laboring to save his countryin spite
of privationsdiscouragementsand dangers which would have
daunted any other man.
Valley Forge,said someoneand the room was very still as old
and young looked silently at this little picture of a great and noble
struggle in one of its dark hours. The crustthe wounded feetthe
ragsthe snowthe lonelinessthe indomitable courage and
endurance of these men touched the hearts of allfor the mimic
scene grew real for a moment; andwhen a child's voice broke the
silenceasking pitifullyOh, mamma, was it truly as dreadful as
that?a general outburst answeredas if everyone wanted to cheer
up the brave fellows and bid them fight onfor victory was surely
In the next scene it did comeand "Washington at Trenton" was
prettily done. An arch of flowers crossed the stagewith the motto
The Defender of the Mothers will be the Preserver of the
Daughters; andas the hero with his generals advanced on one
sidea troop of girlsin old-fashioned muslin frockscame to
scatter flowers before himsinging the song of long ago:
Welcome, mighty chief, once more
Welcome to this grateful shore;
Now no mercenary foe
eyes as she held her egg-shell cup aloft, while the others lifted
theirs to drink the toast, and Merry, as hostess, sat with her hand
on an antique teapot, labelled Sage ready to fill again when the
patriotic ladies were ready for a second dish."
This was much applaudedand the curtain went up againfor the
proud parents enjoyed seeing their pretty girls in the faded finery
of a hundred years ago. The band played "Auld Lang Syne as a
gentle hint that our fore-mothers should be remembered as well as
It was evident that something very martial was to follow, for a
great tramping, clashing, and flying about took place behind the
scenes while the tea-party was going on. After some delay, The
Surrender of Cornwallis" was presented in the most superb
manneras you can believe when I tell you that the stage was
actually lined with a glittering array of Washington and his
generalsLafayetteKosciuskoRochambeau and the restall in
astonishing uniformswith swords which were evidently the pride
of their lives. Fife and drum struck up a marchand in came
Cornwallismuch cast down but full of manly resignationas he
surrendered his swordand stood aside with averted eyes while his
army marched pastpiling their arms at the hero's feet.
This scene was the delight of the boysfor the rifles of Company F
had been securedand at least a dozen soldiers kept filing in and
out in British uniform till Washington's august legs were hidden by
the heaps of arms rattled down before him. The martial musicthe
steady trampand the patriotic memories awakenedcaused this
scene to be enthusiastically encoredand the boys would have
gone on marching till midnight if Ralph had not peremptorily
ordered down the curtain and cleared the stage for the next
This had been artfully slipped in between two brilliant onesto
show that the Father of his Country had to pay a high price for his
glory. The darkened stage represented what seemed to be
Aims again the fatal blow
Aims at thee the fatal blow.
Virgins fair and matrons grave,
Those thy conquering arm did save,
Build for thee triumphal bowers;
Strew, ye fair, his way with flowers,
Strew your hero's -way with flowers.
And they didsinging with all their hearts as they flung artificial
roses and lilies at the feet of the great menwho bowed with
benign grace. Jackwho did Lafayette with a limpcovered himself
with glory by picking up one of the bouquets and pressing it to his
heart with all the gallantry of a Frenchman; and when Washington
lifted the smallest of the maids and kissed herthe audience
cheered. Couldn't help ityou knowit was so pretty and inspiring.
The Washington Familyafter the famous picturecame nextwith
Annette as the serene and sensible Marthain a very becoming cap.
The General was in uniformthere being no time to changebut his
attitude was quite correctand the Custis boy and girl displayed the
wide sash and ruffled collar with historic fidelity. The band played
Home,and everyone agreed that it was "Sweet!"
Now I don't see what more they can have except the deathbed,
and that would be rather out of place in this gay company,said
the old gentleman to Mr. Burtonas he mopped his heated face
after pounding so heartily he nearly knocked the ferule off his
No; they gave that up, for my boy wouldn't wear a night-gown in
public. I can't tell secrets, but I think they have got a very clever
little finale for the first part--a pretty compliment to one person
and a pleasant surprise to all,answered Mr. Burtonwho was in
great spiritsbeing fond of theatricals and very justly proud of his
childrenfor the little girls had been among the Trenton maidsand
the mimic General had kissed his own small sisterNellyvery
A great deal of interest was felt as to what this surprise was to be
and a general "Oh!" greeted the "Minute Man standing
motionless upon his pedestal. It was Frank, and Ralph had done his
best to have the figure as perfect as possible, for the maker of the
original had been a good friend to him; and, while the young
sculptor was dancing gayly at the ball, this copy of his work was
doing him honor among the children. Frank looked it very well, for
his firm-set mouth was full of resolution, his eyes shone keen and
courageous under the three-cornered hat, and the muscles stood
out upon the bare arm that clutched the old gun. Even the buttons
on the gaiters seemed to flash defiance, as the sturdy legs took the
first step from the furrow toward the bridge where the young
farmer became a hero when he fired the shot heard 'round the
That is splendid!As like to the original as flesh can be to
bronze.How still he stands!He'll fight when the time comes,
and die hard, won't he?Hush! You make the statue blush!These
very audible remarks certainly didfor the color rose visibly as the
modest lad heard himself praisedthough he saw but one face in
all the crowdhis mother'sfar backbut full of love and prideas
she looked up at her young minute man waiting for the battle
which often calls us when we least expect itand for which she
had done her best to make him ready.
If there had been any danger of Frank being puffed up by the
success of his statueit was counteracted by irrepressible Grif
whojust at the most interesting momentwhen all were gazing
silentlygave a whistlefollowed by a "Choochoochoo!" and
All aboard!so naturally that no one could mistake the joke
especially as another laughing voice addedNow, then, No. 11!
which brought down the house and the curtain too.
Frank was so angryit was very difficult to keep him on his perch
for the last scene of all. He submittedhoweverrather than spoil
the grand finalehoping that its beauty would efface that ill-timed
pleasantry from the public mind. Sowhen the agreeable clamor of
hands and voices called for a repetitionthe Minute Man
reappearedgrimmer than before. But not alonefor grouped all
about his pedestal were Washington and his generalsthe matrons
and maidswith a background of troops shouldering armsGrif and
Joe doing such rash things with their musketsthat more than one
hero received a poke in his august back. Before the full richness of
this picture had been taken inEd gave a rapand all burst out with
Hail Columbia,in such an inspiring style that it was impossible
for the audience to refrain from joiningwhich they didall
standing and all singing with a heartiness that made the walls ring.
The fife shrilledthe horn blew sweet and clearthe fiddle was
nearly drowned by the energetic boom of the drumand out into
the starry nightthrough open windowsrolled the song that stirs
the coldest heart with patriotic warmth and tunes every voice to
'America!' We must have 'America!' Pipe up, Ed, this is too good
to end without one song more,cried Mr. Burtonwho had been
singing like a trumpet; andhardly waiting to get their breathoff
they all went again with the national hymnsinging as they never
had sung it beforefor somehow the little scenes they had just
acted or beheld seemed to show how much this dear America of
ours had cost in more than one revolutionhow full of courage
energyand virtue it was in spite of all its faultsand what a
privilegeas well as dutyit was for each to do his part toward its
safety and its honor in the presentas did those brave men and
women in the past.
So the "Scenes from the Life of Washington" were a great success
andwhen the songs were overpeople were glad of a brief recess
while they had rapturesand refreshed themselves with lemonade.
The girls had kept the secret of who the "Princess" was to beand
when the curtain rosea hum of surprise and pleasure greeted the
pretty group. Jill lay asleep in all her splendorthe bonny "Prince"
just lifting the veil to wake her with a kissand all about them the
court in its nap of a hundred years. The "King" and "Queen"
dozing comfortably on the throne; the maids of honorlike a
garland of nodding flowersabout the couch; the little page
unconscious of the blow about to falland the fool dreamingwith
his mouth wide open.
It was so prettypeople did not tire of lookingtill Jack's lame leg
began to trembleand he whispered: "Drop her or I shall pitch."
Down went the curtain; but it rose in a momentand there was the
court after the awakening: the "King" and "Queen" looking about
them with sleepy dignitythe maids in various attitudes of surprise
the fool grinning from ear to earand the "Princess" holding out
her hand to the "Prince as if glad to welcome the right lover
when he came at last.
Molly got the laugh this time, for she could not resist giving poor
Boo the cuff which had been hanging over him so long. She gave it
with unconscious energy, and Boo cried Ow!" so naturally that all
the children were delighted and wanted it repeated. But Boo
declinedand the scenes which followed were found quite as much
to their tastehaving been expressly prepared for the little people.
Mother Goose's Reception was really very funnyfor Ralph was
the old ladyand had hired a representation of the immortal bird
from a real theatre for this occasion. There they stoodthe dame in
her pointed hatred petticoatcapand canewith the noble fowla
good deal larger than lifebeside herand Grif insideenjoying
himself immensely as he flapped the wingsmoved the yellow
legsand waved the long neck aboutwhile unearthly quacks
issued from the bill. That was a great surprise for the childrenand
they got up in their seats to gaze their fillmany of them firmly
believing that they actually beheld the blessed old woman who
wrote the nursery songs they loved so well.
Then in cameone after anotherthe best of the characters she has
made famouswhile a voice behind the scenes sang the proper
rhyme as each made their manners to the interesting pair.
Mistress Mary,and her "pretty maids all in a row passed by to
their places in the background; King Cole" and his "fiddlers
three" made a goodly show; so did the royal couplewho followed
the great pie borne before themwith the "four-and-twenty
blackbirds" popping their heads out in the most delightful way.
Little "Bo-Peep" led a wooiiy lamb and wept over its lost tailfor
not a sign of one appeared on the poor thing. "Simple Simon"
followed the pie-mangloating over his wares with the drollest
antics. The little wife came trundling by in a wheelbarrow and was
not upset; neither was the lady with "rings on her fingers and bells
on her toes as she cantered along on a rocking-horse. Bobby
Shafto's" yellow hair shone finely as he led in the maid whom he
came back from sea to marry. "Miss Muffet bowl in hand, ran
away from an immense black spider, which waggled its long legs
in a way so life-like that some of the children shook in their little
shoes. The beggars who came to town were out in full force, rags
tagsand velvet gowns quite true to life. Boy Blue" rubbed his
eyeswith hay sticking in his hairand tooted on a tin horn as if
bound to get the cows out of the corn. Mollywith a long-handled
frying-panmade a capital "Queen in a tucked-up gown, checked
apron, and high crown, to good King Arthur who, very properly,
did not appear after stealing the barley-meal, which might be seen
in the pan tied up in a pudding, like a cannon-ball, ready to fry.
But Tobias, Molly's black cat, covered himself with glory by the
spirit with which he acted his part in,
Singsingwhat shall I sing?
The cat's run away with the pudding-bag string."
First he was led across the stage on his hind legslooking very
fierce and indignantwith a long tape trailing behind him; and
being set free at the proper momenthe gave one bound over the
four-and-twenty blackbirds who happened to be in the wayand
dashed off as if an enraged cook had actually been after him
straight downstairs to the coal-binwhere he sat glaring in the
darktill the fun was over.
When all the characters had filed in and stood in two long rows
music struck up and they'd ancedAll the way to Boston,a
simple but lively affairwhich gave each a chance to show his or
her costume as they pranced down the middle and up outside.
Such a funny medley as it wasfor there went fat "King Cole" with
the most ragged of the beggar-maids. "Mistress Mary in her
pretty blue dress, tripped along with Simple Simon" staring about
him like a blockhead. The fine lady left her horse to dance with
Bobby Shaftotill every bell on her slippers tinkled its tongue
out. "Bo-Peep" and a jolly fiddler skipped gayly up and down.
Miss Muffettook the big spider for her partnerand made his
many legs fly about in the wildest way. The little wife got out of
the wheelbarrow to help "Boy Blue" alongand Mollywith the
frying-pan over her shoulderled off splendidly when it was
Grand right and left.
But the old lady and her goose were the best of allfor the dame's
shoes-buckles cut the most astonishing pigeon-wingsand to see
that mammoth bird waddle down the middle with its wings half
openits long neck bridlingand its yellow legs in the first position
as it curtsied to its partnerwas a sight to rememberit was so
The merry old gentleman laughed till he cried; Mr. Burton split his
gloveshe applauded so enthusiastically; while the children beat
the dust out of the carpet hopping up and downas they cried: "Do
it again!" "We want it all over!" when the curtain went down at last
on the flushed and panting partyMother G----bowingwith her hat
all awryand the goose doing a double shuffle as if it did not know
how to leave off.
But they could not "do it all over again for it was growing late,
and the people felt that they certainly had received their money's
worth that evening.
So it all ended merrily, and when the guests departed the boys
cleared the room like magic, and the promised supper to the actors
was served in handsome style. Jack and Jill were at one end, Mrs.
Goose and her bird at the other, and all between was a comical
collection of military heroes, fairy characters, and nursery
celebrities. All felt the need of refreshment after their labors, and
swept over the table like a flight of locusts, leaving devastation
behind. But they had earned their fun: and much innocent jollity
prevailed, while a few lingering papas and mammas watched the
revel from afar, and had not the heart to order these noble beings
home till even the Father of his Country declared that he'd had a
perfectly splendid timebut couldn't keep his eyes open another
minute and very wisely retired to replace the immortal cocked
hat with a night-cap.
Chapter 13 Jack Has a Mystery
What is the matter? Does your head ache?" asked Jillone
evening in Marchobserving that Jack sat with his head in his
handsan attitude whichwith himmeant either pain or
No; but I'm bothered. I want some money, and I don't see how I
can earn it,he answeredtumbling his hair aboutand frowning
darkly at the fire.
How much?and Jill's ready hand went to the pocket where her
little purse layfor she felt rich with several presents lately made
Two seventy-five. No, thank you, I won't borrow.
What is it for?
Why, I thought you told me everything.
Sorry, but I can't this time. Don't you worry; I shall think of
Couldn't your mother help?
Don't wish to ask her.
Why! can't she know?
How queer! Is it a scrape, Jack?asked Jilllooking as curious as
It is likely to be, if I can't get out of it this week, somehow.
Well, I don't see how I can help if I'm not to know anything; and
Jill seemed rather hurt.
You can just stop asking questions, and tell me how a fellow can
earn some money. That would help. I've got one dollar, but I must
have some more; and Jack looked worried as he fingered the little
gold dollar on his watch-guard.
Oh, do you mean to use that?
Yes, I do; a man must pay his debts if he sells all he has to do it,
said Jack sternly.
Dear me; it must be something very serious.And Jill lay quite
still for five minutesthinking over all the ways in which Jack ever
did earn moneyfor Mrs. Minot liked to have her boys workand
paid them in some way for all they did.
Is there any wood to saw?she asked presentlybeing very
anxious to help.
All done.Paths to shovel?
NO snow. Lawn to rakethen?"
Not time for that yet.
Catalogue of books?
Frank got that job.
Copy those letters for your mother?
Take me too long. Must have my money Friday, if possible.
I don't see what we can do, then. It is too early or too late for
everything, and you won't borrow.
Not of you. No, nor of anyone else, if I can possibly help it. I've
promised to do this myself, and I will; and Jack wagged his head
Couldn't you do something with the printing-press? Do me some
cards, and then, perhaps, the other girls will want some,said Jill
as a forlorn hope.
Just the thing! What a goose I was not to think of it. I'll rig the old
machine up at once.Andstarting from his seatJack dived into
the big closetdragged out the little pressand fell to oiling
dustingand putting it in orderlike one relieved of a great anxiety.
Give me the types; I'll sort them and set up my name, so you can
begin as soon as you are ready. You know what a help I was when
we did the programmes. I'm almost sure the girls will want cards,
and I know your mother would like some more tags,said Jill
briskly rattling the letters into the different compartmentswhile
Jack inked the rollers and hunted up his big apronwhistling the
while with recovered spirits.
A dozen neat cards were soon printedand Jill insisted on paying
six cents for themas earning was not borrowing. A few odd tags
were found and done for Mammawho immediately ordered four
dozen at six cents a dozenthough she was not told why there was
such a pressing call for money.
Jack's monthly half-dollar had been spent the first week
twenty-five cents for a concertten paid a fine for keeping a book
too long from the libraryten more to have his knife groundand
five in candyfor he dearly loved sweetiesand was under bonds to
Mamma not to spend more than five cents a month on these
unwholesome temptations. She never asked the boys what they did
with their moneybut expected them to keep account in the little
books she gave them; andnow and thenthey showed the neat
pages with pardonable pridethough she often laughed at the queer
All that evening Jack & Co. worked busilyfor when Frank came
in he good-naturedly ordered some pale-pink cards for Annette
and ran to the store to choose the right shadeand buy some
packages for the young printer also.
What do you suppose he is in such a pucker for?whispered Jill
as she set up the new nameto Frankwho sat close bywith one
eye on his book and one on her.
Oh, some notion. He's a queer chap; but I guess it isn't much of a
scrape, or I should know it. He's so good-natured he's always
promising to do things for people, and has too much pluck to give
up when he finds he can't. Let him alone, and it will all come out
soon enough,answered Frankwho laughed at his brotherbut
loved him none the less for the tender heart that often got the
better of his young head.
But for once Frank was mistaken; the mystery did not come out
and Jack worked like a beaver all that weekas orders poured in
when Jill and Annette showed their elegant cards; foras
everybody knowsif one girl has a new thing all the rest must
whether it is a bow on the top of her heada peculiar sort of pencil
or the latest kind of chewing-gum. Little play did the poor fellow
getfor every spare minute was spent at the pressand no
invitation could tempt him awayso much in earnest was our
honest little Franklin about paying his debt. Jill helped all she
couldand cheered his labors with her encouragement
remembering how he stayed at home for her.
It is real good of you to lend a hand, and I'm ever so much
obliged,said Jackas the last order was struck offand the drawer
of the type-box held a pile of shining five and ten cent pieceswith
two or three quarters.
I love to; only it would be nicer if I knew what we were working
for,she said demurelyas she scattered type for the last time; and
seeing that Jack was both tired and gratefulhoped to get a hint of
I want to tell you, dreadfully; but I can't, because I've promised.
Never!and Jack looked as firm as a rock.
Then I shall find out, for I haven't promised.
See if I don't!
You are sharp, but you won't guess this. It's a tremendous secret,
and nobody will tell it.
You'll tell it yourself. You always do.
I won't tell this. It would be mean.
Wait and see; I can get anything out of you if I try; and Jill
laughedknowing her power wellfor Jack found it very hard to
keep a secret from her.
Don't try; please don't! It wouldn't be right, and you don't want to
make me do a dishonorable thing for your sake, I know.
Jack looked so distressed that Jill promised not to make him tell
though she held herself free to find out in other waysif she could.
Thus relievedJack trudged off to school on Friday with the two
dollars and seventy-five cents jingling in his pocketthough the
dear gold coin had to be sacrificed to make up the sum. He did his
lessons badly that daywas late at recess in the afternoonandas
soon as school was overdeparted in his rubber boots "to take a
walk he said, though the roads were in a bad state with a spring
thaw. Nothing was seen of him till after tea-time, when he came
limping in, very dirty and tired, but with a reposeful expression,
which betrayed that a load was off his mind. Frank was busy about
his own affairs and paid little attention to him, but Jill was on
tenter-hooks to know where he had been, yet dared not ask the
Merry's brother wants some cards. He liked hers so much he
wishes to make his lady-love a present. Here's the name"; and Jill
held up the order from Harry Grantwho was to be married in the
Must wait till next week. I'm too tired to do a thing to-night, and I
hate the sight of that old press,answered Jacklaying himself
down upon the rug as if every joint ached.
What made you take such a long walk? You look as tired as if
you'd been ten miles,said Jillhoping to discover the length of the
Had to. Four or five miles isn't much, only my leg bothered me;
and Jack gave the ailing member a slapas if he had found it much
in his way that day; forthough he had given up the crutches long
agohe rather missed their support sometimes. Thenwith a great
yawnhe stretched himself out to bask in the blazepillowing his
head on his arms.
Dear old thing, he looks all used up; I won't plague him with
talking; and Jill began to singas she often did in the twilight.
By the time the first song ended a gentle snore was heardand Jack
lay fast asleepworn out with the busy week and the walkwhich
had been longer and harder than anyone guessed. Jill took up her
knitting and worked quietly by firelightstill wondering and
guessing what the secret could be; for she had not much to amuse
herand little things were very interesting if connected with her
friends. Presently Jack rolled over and began to mutter in his sleep
as he often did when too weary for sound slumber. Jill paid no
attention till he uttered a name which made her prick up her ears
and listen to the hroken sentences which followed. Only a few
wordsbut she dropped her worksaying to herself
I do believe he is talking about the secret. Now I shall find out,
and he will tell me himself, as I said he would.
Much pleasedshe leaned and listenedbut could make no sense of
the confused babble about "heavy boots"; "All rightold fellow";
Jerry's off; and "The ink is too thick."
The slam of the front door woke Jackand he pulled himself up
declaring that he believed he had been having a nap.
I wish you'd have another,said Jillgreatly disappointed at the
loss of the intelligence she seemed to be so near getting.
Floor is too hard for tired bones. Guess I'll go to bed and get
rested up for Monday. I've worked like fury this week, so next
I'm going in for fun; andlittle dreaming what hard times were in
store for himJack went off to enjoy his warm bath and welcome
bedwhere he was soon sleeping with the serene look of one
whose dreams were happywhose conscience was at rest.
I have a few words to say to you before you go,said Mr. Acton
pausing with his hand on the bellMonday afternoonwhen the
hour came for dismissing school.
The bustle of putting away books and preparing for as rapid a
departure as propriety allowedsubsided suddenlyand the boys
and girls sat as still as micewhile the hearts of such as had been
guilty of any small sins began to beat fast.
You remember that we had some trouble last winter about
keeping the boys away from the saloon, and that a rule was made
forbidding any pupil to go to town during recess?began Mr.
Actonwhobeing a conscientious man as well as an excellent
teacherfelt that he was responsible for the children in school
hoursand did his best to aid parents in guarding them from the
few temptations which beset them in a country town. A certain
attractive little shopwhere confectionerybaseballsstationery
and picture papers were soldwas a favorite loafing place for some
of the boys till the rule forbidding it was madebecause in the rear
of the shop was a beer and billiard saloon. A wise rulefor the
picture papers were not always of the best sort; cigars were to be
had; idle fellows hung about thereand some of the ladswho
wanted to be thought manlyventured to pass the green baize door
just to look on.
A murmur answered the teacher's questionand he continued
You all know that the rule was broken several times, and I told
you the next offender would be publicly reprimanded, as private
punishments had no effect. I am sorry to say that the time has
come, and the offender is a boy whom I trusted entirely. It grieves
me to do this, but I must keep my promise, and hope the example
will have a good effect.
Mr. Acton pausedas if he found it hard to go onand the boys
looked at one another with inquiring eyesfor their teacher seldom
punishedand when he didit was a very solemn thing. Several of
these anxious glances fell upon Joewho was very red and sat
whittling a pencil as if he dared not lift his eyes.
He's the chap. Won't he catch it?whispered Gus to Frankfor
both owed him a grudge.
The boy who broke the rule last Friday, at afternoon recess, will
come to the desk,said Mr. Acton in his most impressive manner.
If a thunderbolt had fallen through the roof it would hardly have
caused a greater surprise than the sight of Jack Minot walking
slowly down the aislewith a wrathful flash in the eyes he turned
on Joe as he passed him.
Now, Minot, let us have this over as soon as possible, for I do not
like it any better than you do, and I am sure there is some mistake.
I'm told you went to the shop on Friday. Is it true?asked Mr.
Acton very gentlyfor he liked Jack and seldom had to correct him
in any way.
Yes, sir; and Jack looked up as if proud to show that he was not
afraid to tell the truth as far as he could.
To buy somethin?
To meet someone?
Was it Jerry Shannon?
No answerbut Jack's fists doubled up of themselves as he shot
another fiery glance at Joewhose face burned as if it scorched
I am told it was; also that you were seen to go into the saloon
with him. Did you?and Mr. Acton looked so sure that it was a
mistake that it cost Jack a great effort to sayslowly
Quite a thrill pervaded the school at this confessionfor Jerry was
one of the wild fellows the boys all shunnedand to have any
dealings with him was considered a very disgraceful thing.
Did you play?
No, sir. I can't.
I belong to the Lodge; and Jack stood as erect as any little soldier
who ever marched under a temperance bannerand fought for the
cause none are too young nor too old to help along.
I was sure of that. Then what took you there, my boy?
The question was so kindly put that Jack forgot himself an instant
and blurted out
I only went to pay him some money, sir.
Ah, how much?
Two seventy-five,muttered Jackas red as a cherry at not being
able to keep a secret better.
Too much for a lad like you to owe such a fellow as Jerry. How
came it?And Mr. Acton looked disturbed.
Jack opened his lips to speakbut shut them againand stood
looking down with a little quiver about the mouth that showed
how much it cost him to be silent.
Does anyone beside Jerry know of this?
One other fellow,after a pause.
Yes, I understand; and Mr. Acton's eye glanced at Joe with a
look that seemed to sayI wish he'd held his tongue.
A queer smile flitted over Jack's facefor Joe was not the "other
fellow and knew very little about it, excepting what he had seen
when he was sent on an errand by Mr. Acton on Friday.
I wish you would explain the matterJohnfor I am sure it is
better than it seemsand it would be very hard to punish you when
you don't deserve it."
But I do deserve it; I've broken the rule, and I ought to be
punished,said Jackas if a good whipping would be easier to bear
than this public cross-examination.
And you can't explain, or even say you are sorry or ashamed?
asked Mr. Actonhoping to surprise another fact out of the boy.
No, sir; I can't; I'm not ashamed; I'm not sorry, and I'd do it again
to-morrow if I had to,cried Jacklosing patienceand looking as
if he would not bear much more.
A groan from the boys greeted this bare-faced declarationand
Susy quite shivered at the idea of having taken two bites out of the
apple of such a hardened desperado.
Think it over till to-morrow, and perhaps you will change your
mind. Remember that this is the last week of the month, and
reports are given out next Friday,said Mr. Actonknowing how
much the boy prided himself on always having good ones to show
Poor Jack turned scarlet and bit his lips to keep them stillfor he
had forgotten this when he plunged into the affair which was likely
to cost him dear. Then the color faded awaythe boyish face grew
steadyand the honest eyes looked up at his teacher as he said very
iowbut all heard himthe room was so still
It isn't as bad as it looks, sir, but I can't say any more. No one is to
blame but me; and I couldn't help breaking the rule, for Jerry was
going away, I had only that time, and I'd promised to pay up, so I
Mr. Acton believed every word he saidand regretted that they had
not been able to have it out privatelybut hetoomust keep his
promise and punish the offenderwhoever he was.
Very well, you will lose your recess for a week, and this month's
report will be the first one in which behavior does not get the
highest mark. You may go; and I wish it understood that Master
Minot is not to be troubled with questions till he chooses to set this
Then the bell rangthe children trooped outMr. Acton went off
without another wordand Jack was left alone to put up his books
and hide a few tears that would come because Frank turned his
eyes away from the imploring look cast upon him as the culprit
came down from the platforma disgraced boy.
Elder brothers are apt to be a little hard on younger onesso it is
not surprising that Frankwho was an eminently proper boywas
much cut up when Jack publicly confessed to dealings with Jerry
leaving it to be supposed that the worst half of the story remained
untold. He felt it his dutythereforeto collar poor Jack when he
came outand talk to him all the way homelike a judge bent on
getting at the truth by main force. A kind word would have been
very comfortingbut the scolding was too much for Jack's temper
so he turned dogged and would not say a wordthough Frank
threatened not to speak to him for a week.
At tea-time both boys were very silentone looking grimthe other
excited. Frank stared sternly at his brother across the tableand no
amount of marmalade sweetened or softened that reproachful look.
Jack defiantly crunched his toastwith occasional slashes at the
butteras if he must vent the pent-up emotions which half
distracted him. Of coursetheir mother saw that something was
amissbut did not allude to ithoping that the cloud would blow
over as so many did if left alone. But this one did notand when
both refused cakethis sure sign of unusual perturbation made her
anxious to know the cause. As soon as tea was overJack retired
with gloomy dignity to his own roomand Frankcasting away the
paper he had been pretending to readburst out with the whole
story. Mrs. Minot was as much surprised as hebut not angry
becauselike most mothersshe was sure that her sons could not
do anything very bad.
I will speak to him; my boy won't refuse to give me some
explanation,she saidwhen Frank had freed his mind with as
much warmth as if Jack had broken all the ten commandments.
He will. You often call me obstinate, but he is as pig-headed as a
mule; Joe only knows what he saw, old tell-tale! and Jerry has left
town, or I'd have it out of him. Make Jack own up, whether he can
or not. Little donkey!stormed Frankwho hated rowdies and
could not forgive his brother for being seen with one.
My dear, all boys do foolish things sometimes, even the Wisest
and best behaved, so don't be hard on the poor child. He has got
into trouble, I've no doubt, but it cannot be very bad, and he earned
the money to pay for his prank, whatever it was.
Mrs. Minot left the room as she spokeand Frank cooled down as
if her words had been a shower-bathfor he remembered his own
costly escapadeand how kindly both his mother and Jack had
stood by him on that trying occasion. Sofeeling rather remorseful
he went off to talk it over with Gusleaving Jill in a fever of
curiosityfor Merry and Molly had dropped in on their way home
to break the blow to herand Frank declined to discuss it with her
after mildly stating that Jack was "a ninny in his opinion.
WellI know one thing said Jill confidentially to Snow-ball,
when they were left alone together, if everyone else is scolding
him I won't say a word. It's so mean to crow over people when they
are downand I'm sure he hasn't done anything to be ashamed of
though he won't tell."
Snow-ball seemed to agree to thisfor he went and sat down by
Jack's slippers waiting for him on the hearthand Jill thought that a
very touching proof of affectionate fidelity to the little master who
ruled them both.
When he cameit was evident that he had found it harder to refuse
his mother than all the rest. But she trusted him in spite of
appearancesand that was such a comfort! For poor Jack's heart
was very fulland he longed to tell the whole storybut he would
not break his promiseand so kept silence bravely. Jill asked no
questionsaffecting to be anxious for the games they always
played together in the eveningbut while they playedthough the
lips were sealedthe bright eyes said as plainly as wordsI trust
you,and Jack was very grateful.
It was well he had something to cheer him up at homefor he got
little peace at school. He bore the grave looks of Mr. Acton
meeklytook the boys' jokes good-naturedlyand withstood the
artful teasing of the girls with patient silence. But it was very hard
for the socialaffectionate fellow to bear the general distrustfor
he had been such a favorite he felt the change keenly.
But the thing that tried him most was the knowledge that his report
would not be what it usually was. It was always a happy moment
when he showed it to his motherand saw her eye brighten as it
fell on the 99 or moofor she cared more for good behavior than
for perfect lessons. Mr. Acton once said that Frank Minot's moral
influence in the school was unusualand Jack never forgot her
pride and delight as she told them what Frank himself had not
known till then. It was Jack's ambition to have the same said of
himfor he was not much of a scholarand he had tried hard since
he went back to school to get good records in that respect at least.
Now here was a dreadful downfalltardy marksbad company
broken rulesand something too wrong to tellapparently.
'WellI deserve a good reportand that's a comfortthough nobody
believes it he said to himself, trying to keep up his spirits, as the
slow week went by, and no word from him had cleared up the
Chapter 14 And Jill Finds It Out
Jill worried about it more than he did, for she was a faithful little
friend, and it was a great trial to have Jack even suspected of doing
anything wrong. School is a child's world while he is there, and its
small affairs are very important to him, so Jill felt that the one
thing to be done was to clear away the cloud about her dear boy,
and restore him to public favor.
Ed will be here Saturday night and maybe he will find outfor
Jack tells him everything. I do hate to have him hectored sofor I
know he isthough he's too proud to complain she said, on
Thursday evening, when Frank told her some joke played upon his
brother that day.
I let him alonebut I see that he isn't badgered too much. That's
all I can do. If Ed had only come home last Saturday it might have
done some goodbut now it will be too late; for the reports are
given out to-morrowyou know answered Frank, feeling a little
jealous of Ed's influence over Jack, though his own would have
been as great if he had been as gentle.
Has Jerry come back?" asked Jillwho kept all her questions for
Frankbecause she seldom alluded to the tender subject when with
No, he's off for the summer. Got a place somewhere. Hope he'll
stay there and let Bob alone.
Where is Bob now? I don't hear much about him lately,said Jill
who was constantly on the lookout for "the other fellow since it
was not Joe.
Ohhe went to Captain Skinner's the first of Marchchores round
and goes to school up there. Captain is strictand won't let Bob
come to townexcept Sundays; but he don't mind it muchfor he
likes horseshas nice gruband the Hill fellows are good chaps for
him to be with. So he's all rightif he only behaves."
How far is it to Captain Skinner's?asked Jill suddenlyhaving
listenedwith her sharp eyes on Frankas he tinkered away at his
modelsince he was forbidden all other indulgence in his beloved
It's four miles to Hill District, but the Captain lives this side of the
school-house. About three from here, I should say.
How long would it take a boy to walk up there?went on the
questionerwith a new idea in her head.
Depends on how much of a walkist he is.
Suppose he was lame and it was sloshy, and he made a call and
came back. How long would that take?asked Jill impatiently.
Well, in that case, I should say two or three hours. But it's
impossible to tell exactly, unless you know how lame the fellow
was, and how long a call he made,said Frankwho liked to be
Jack couldn't do it in less, could he?
He used to run up that hilly road for a breather, and think nothing
of it. It would be a long job for him now, poor little chap, for his
leg often troubles him, though he hates to own it.
Jill lay back and laugheda happy little laughas if she was
pleased about somethingand Frank looked over his shoulder to
ask questions in his turn.
What are you laughing at?
Why do you want to know about Hill District? Are you going
Wish I could! I'd soon have it out of him.
Never mind. Please push up my table. I must write a letter, and I
want you to post it for me to-night, and never say a word till I give
Ohnow you are going to have secrets and be mysteriousand get
into a messare you?" and Frank looked down at her with a
suspicious airthough he was intensely curious to know what she
Go away till I'm done. You will have to see the outside, but you
can't know the inside till the answer comes; and propping herself
upJill wrote the following notewith some hesitation at the
beginning and endfor she did not know the gentleman she was
addressingexcept by sightand it was rather awkward:
Dear SirI want to ask if Jack Minot came to see you last Friday
afternoon. He got into trouble being seen with Jerry Shannon. He
paid him some money. Jack won't telland Mr. Acton talked to
him about it before all the school. We feel badbecause we think
Jack did not do wrong. I don't know as you have anything to do
with itbut I thought I'd ask. Please answer quick. Respectfully
To make sure that her despatch was not tampered withJill put a
great splash of red sealing-wax on itwhich gave it a very official
lookand much impressed Bob when he received it.
There! Go and post it, and don't let anyone see or know about it,
she saidhanding it over to Frankwho left his work with unusual
alacrity to do her errand. When his eye fell on the addresshe
laughedand said in a teasing way
Are you and Bob such good friends that you correspond? What
will Jack say?
Don't know, and don't care! Be good, now, and let's have a little
secret as well as other folks. I'll tell you all about it when he
answers,said Jill in her most coaxing tone.
Suppose he doesn't?
Then I shall send you up to see him. I must know something, and
I want to do it myself, if I can.
Look here; what are you after? I do believe you think----Frank
got no fartherfor Jill gave a little screamand stopped him by
crying eagerlyDon't say it out loud! I really do believe it may be,
and I'm going to find out.
What made you think of him?and Frank looked thoughtfully at
the letteras if turning carefully over in his mind the idea that Jill's
quick wits had jumped at.
Come here and I'll tell you.
Holding him by one buttonshe whispered something in his ear
that made him exclaimwith a look at the rug
No! did he? I declare I shouldn't wonder! It would be just like the
dear old blunder-head.
I never thought of it till you told me where Bob was, and then it
all sort of burst upon me in one minute!cried Jillwaving her
arms about to express the intellectual explosion which had thrown
light upon the mysterylike sky-rockets in a dark night.
You are as bright as a button. No time to lose; I'm off; and off he
wassplashing through the mud to post the letteron the back of
which he addedto make the thing sureHurry up.
Both felt rather guilty next daybut enjoyed themselves very much
neverthelessand kept chuckling over the mine they were making
under Jack's unconscious feet. They hardly expected an answer at
noonas the Hill people were not very eager for their mailbut at
night Jill was sure of a letterand to her great delight it came. Jack
brought it himselfwhich added to the funand while she eagerly
read it he sat calmly poring over the latest number of his own
private and particular "Youth's Companion."
Bob was not a "complete letter-writer" by any meansand with
great labor and much ink had produced the following brief but
highly satisfactory epistle. Not knowing how to address his fair
correspondent he let it aloneand went at once to the point in the
frankest possible way:
Jack did come up Friday. Sorry he got into a mess. It was real
kind of him, and I shall pay him back soon. Jack paid Jerry for me
and I made him promise not to tell. Jerry said he'd come here and
make a row if I didn't cash up. I was afraid I'd lose the place if he
did, for the Capt. is awful strict. If Jack don't tell now, I will. I ain't
mean. Glad you wrote.
R. O. W.
Hurrah!cried Jillwaving the letter over her head in great
triumph. "Call everybody and read it out she added, as Frank
snatched it, and ran for his mother, seeing at a glance that the news
was good. Jill was so afraid she should tell before the others came
that she burst out singing Pretty Bobby Shafto" at the top of her
voiceto Jack's great disgustfor he considered the song very
personalas he wa.s rather fond of "combing down his yellow
hair and Jill often plagued him by singing it when he came in
with the golden quiris very smooth and nice to hide the scar on his
In about five minutes the door flew open and in came Mamma,
making straight for bewildered Jack, who thought the family had
gone crazy when his parent caught him in her arms, saying
My goodgenerous boy! I knew he was right all the time!" while
Frank worked his hand up and down like a pump-handle
You're a trump, sir, and I'm proud of you!Jill meantime calling
outin wild delight
I told you so! I told you so! I did find out; ha, ha, I did!
Come, I say! What's the matter? I'm all right. Don't squeeze the
breath out of me, please,expostulated Jacklooking so startled
and innocentas he struggled feeblythat they all laughedand this
plaintive protest caused him to be released. But the next
proceeding did not enlighten him muchfor Frank kept waving a
very inky paper before him and ordering him to read itwhile
Mamma made a charge at Jillas if it was absolutely necessary to
Hullo!said Jackwhen he got the letter into his own hand and
read it. "Now who put Bob up to this? Nobody had any business to
interfere--but it's mighty good of himanyway he added, as the
anxious lines in his round face smoothed themselves away, while a
smile of relief told how hard it had been for him to keep his word.
I did!" cried Jillclapping her handsand looking so happy that he
could not have scolded her if he had wanted to.
Who told you he was in the scrape?demanded Jackin a hurry to
know all about it now the seal was taken off his own lips.
You did; and Jill's face twinkled with naughty satisfactionfor
this was the best fun of all.
I didn't! When? Where? It's a joke!
You did,cried Jillpointing to the rug. "You went to sleep there
after the long walkand talked in your sleep about 'Bob' and 'All
rightold boy' and ever so much gibberish. I didn't think about it
thenbut when I heard that Bob was up there I thought maybe he
knew something about itand last night I wrote and asked himand
that's the answerand now it is all rightand you are the best boy
that ever wasand I'm so glad!"
Here Jill pausedall out of breathand Frank saidwith an
approving pat on the head
It won't do to have such a sharp young person round if we are
going to have secrets. You'd make a good detective, miss.
Catch me taking naps before people again; and Jack looked
rather crestfallen that his own words had set "Fine Ear" on the
track. "Never mindI didn't mean to tellthough I just ached to do
it all the timeso I haven't broken my word. I'm glad you all know
but you needn't let it get outfor Bob is a good fellowand it might
make trouble for him added Jack, anxious lest his gain should be
the other's loss.
I shall tell Mr. Acton myselfand the Captainalsofor I'm not
going to have my son suspected of wrong-doing when he has only
tried to help a friendand borne enough for his sake said
Mamma, much excited by this discovery of generous fidelity in her
boy; though when one came to look at it calmly, one saw that it
might have been done in a wiser way.
Nowpleasedon't make a fuss about it; that would be most as
bad as having everyone down on me. I can stand your praising me
but I won't be patted on the head by anybody else"; and Jack
assumed a manly airthough his face was full of genuine boyish
pleasure at being set right in the eyes of those he loved.
I'll be discreet, dear, but you owe it to yourself, as well as Bob, to
have the truth known. Both have behaved well, and no harm will
come to him, I am sure. I'll see to that myself,said Mrs. Minotin
a tone that set Jack's mind at rest on that point.
Now do tell all about it,cried Jillwho was pining to know the
whole storyand felt as if she had earned the right to hear it.
Oh, it wasn't much. We promised Ed to stand by Bob, so I did as
well as I knew how; and Jack seemed to think that was about all
there was to say.
I never saw such a fellow for keeping a promise! You stick to it
through thick and thin, no matter how silly or hard it is. You
remember, mother, last summer, how you told him not to go in a
boat and he promised, the day we went on the picnic. We rode up,
but the horse ran off home, so we had to come back by way of the
river, all but Jack, and he walked every step of five miles because
he wouldn't go near a boat, though Mr. Burton was there to take
care of him. I call that rather overdoing the matter; and Frank
looked as if he thought moderation even in virtue a good thing.
And I call it a fine sample of entire obedience. He obeyed orders,
and that is what we all must do, without always seeing why, or
daring to use our own judgment. It is a great safeguard to Jack, and
a very great comfort to me; for I know that if he promises he will
keep his word, no matter what it costs him,said Mamma warmly
as she tumbled up the quirls with an irrepressible caress
remembering how the boy came wearily in after all the others
without seeming for a moment to think that he could have done
Like Casabianca!cried Jillmuch impressedfor obedience was
her hardest trial.
I think he was a fool to burn up,said Frankbound not to give in.
I don't. It's a splendid piece, and everyone likes to speak it, and it
was true, and it wouldn't be in all the books if he was a fool.
Grown people know what is good,declared Jillwho liked heroic
actionsand was always hoping for a chance to distinguish herself
in that way.
You admire 'The Charge of the Light Brigade,' and glow all over
as you thunder it out. Yet they went gallantly to their death rather
than disobey orders. A mistake, perhaps, but it makes us thrill to
hear of it; and the same spirit keeps my Jack true as steel when
once his word is passed, or he thinks it is his duty. Don't be
laughed out of it, my son, for faithfulness in little things fits one
for heroism when the great trials come. One's conscience can
hardly be too tender when honor and honesty are concerned.
You are right, mother, and I am wrong. I beg your pardon, Jack,
and you sha'n't get ahead of me next time.
Frank made his mother a little bowgave his brother a shake of the
handand nodded to Jillas if anxious to show that he was not too
proud to own up when he made a mistake.
Please tell on, Jack. This is very nice, but I do want to know all
about the other,said Jillafter a short pause.
Let me see. Oh, I saw Bob at church, and he looked rather blue;
so, after Sunday School, I asked what the matter was. He said Jerry
bothered him for some money he lent him at different times when
they were loafing round together, before we took him up. He
wouldn't get any wages for some time. The Captain keeps him
short on purpose, I guess, and won't let him come down town
except on Sundays. He didn't want anyone to know about it, for
fear he'd lose his place. So I promised I wouldn't tell. Then I was
afraid Jerry would go and make a fuss, and Bob would run off, or
do something desperate, being worried, and I said I'd pay it for
him, if I could. So he went home pretty jolly, and I scratched
'round for the money. Got it, too, and wasn't I glad?
Jack paused to rub his handsand Frank saidwith more than usual
Couldn't you get hold of Jerry in any other place, and out of
school time? That did the mischief, thanks to Joe. I thrashed him,
Jill--did I mention it?
I couldn't get all my money till Friday morning, and I knew Jerry
was off at night. I looked for him before school, and at noon, but
couldn't find him, so afternoon recess was my last chance. I was
bound to do it and I didn't mean to break the rule, but Jerry was
just going into the shop, so I pelted after him, and as it was private
business we went to the billiard-room. I declare I never was so
relieved as when I handed over that money, and made him say it
was all right, and he wouldn't go near Bob. He's off, so my mind is
easy, and Bob will be so grateful I can keep him steady, perhaps.
That will be worth two seventy-five, I think,said Jack heartily.
You should have come to me,began Frank.
And got laughed at--no, thank you,interrupted Jackrecollecting
several philanthropic little enterprises which were nipped in the
bud for want of co-operation.
To me, then,said his mother. "It would have saved so much
I thought of it, but Bob didn't want the big fellows to know for
fear they'd be down on him, so I thought he might not like me to
tell grown people. I don't mind the fuss now, and Bob is as kind as
he can be. Wanted to give me his big knife, but I wouldn't take it.
I'd rather have this,and Jack put the letter in his pocket with a
slap outsideas if it warmed the cockles of his heart to have it
Well, it seems rather like a tempest in a teapot, now it is all over,
but I do admire your pluck, little boy, in holding out so well when
everyone was scolding at you, and you in the right all the time,
said Frankglad to praisenow that he honestly couldafter his
That is what pulled me through, I suppose. I used to think if I had
done anything wrong, that I couldn't stand the snubbing a day. I
should have told right off, and had it over. Now, I guess I'll have a
good report if you do tell Mr. Acton,said Jacklooking at his
mother so wistfullythat she resolved to slip away that very
eveningand make sure that the thing was done.
That will make you happier than anything else, won't it?asked
Jilleager to have him rewarded after his trials.
There's one thing I like better, though I'd be very sorry to lose my
report. It's the fun of telling Ed I tried to do as he wanted us to, and
seeing how pleased he'll be,added Jackrather bashfullyfor the
boys laughed at him sometimes for his love of this friend.
I know he won't be any happier about it than someone else, who
stood by you all through, and set her bright wits to work till the
trouble was all cleared away,said Mrs. Minotlooking at Jill's
contented faceas she lay smiling on them all.
Jack understoodandhopping across the roomgave both the thin
hands a hearty shake; thennot finding any words quite cordial
enough in which to thank this faithful little sisterhe stooped down
and kissed her gratefully.
Chapter 15 Saint Lucy
Saturday was a busy and a happy time to Jackfor in the morning
Mr. Acton came to see himhaving heard the story overnightand
promised to keep Bob's secret while giving Jack an acquittal as
public as the reprimand had been. Then he asked for the report
which Jack had bravely received the day before and put away
without showing to anybody.
There is one mistake here which we must rectify,said Mr.
Actonas he crossed out the low figures under the word
Behavior,and put the much-desired 100 there.
But I did break the rule, sir,said Jackthough his face glowed
with pleasurefor Mamma was looking on.
I overlook that as I should your breaking into my house if you saw
it was on fire. You ran to save a friend, and I wish I could tell
those fellows why you were there. It would do them good. I am not
going to praise you, John, but I did believe you in spite of
appearances, and I am glad to have for a pupil a boy who loves his
neighbor better than himself.
Thenhaving shaken hands heartilyMr. Acton went awayand
Jack flew off to have rejoicings with Jillwho sat up on her sofa
without knowing itso eager was she to hear all about the call.
In the afternoon Jack drove his mother to the Captain'sconfiding
to her on the way what a hard time he had when he went before
and how nothing but the thought of cheering Bob kept him up
when he slipped and hurt his kneeand his boot sprung a leakand
the wind came up very coldand the hill seemed an endless
mountain of mud and snow.
Mrs. Minot had such a gentle way of putting things that she would
have won over a much harder man than the strict old Captainwho
heard the story with interestand was much pleased with the boys'
efforts to keep Bob straight. That young person dodged away into
the barn with Jackand only appeared at the last minute to shove a
bag of chestnuts into the chaise. But he got a few kind words that
did him goodfrom Mrs. Minot and the Captainand from that day
felt himself under bonds to behave well if he would keep their
I shall give Jill the nuts; and I wish I had something she wanted
very, very much, for I do think she ought to be rewarded for
getting me out of the mess,said Jackas they'd rove happily
I hope to have something in a day or two that will delight her very
much. I will say no more now, but keep my little secret and let it
be a surprise to all by and by,answered his motherlooking as if
she had not much doubt about the matter.
That will be jolly. You are welcome to your secret, Mamma. I've
had enough of them for one while; and Jack shrugged his broad
shoulders as if a burden had been taken off.
In the evening Ed cameand Jack was quite satisfied when he saw
how pleased his friend was at what he had done.
I never meant you should take so much trouble, only be kind to
Bob,said Edwho did not know how strong his influence was
nor what a sweet example of quiet well-doing his own life was to
all his mates.
I wished to be really useful; not just to talk about it and do
nothing. That isn't your way, and I want to be like you,answered
Jackwith such affectionate sincerity that Ed could not help
believing himthough he modestly declined the compliment by
sayingas he began to play softlyBetter than I am, I hope. I don't
amount to much.
Yes, you do! and if anyone says you don't I'll shake him. I can't
tell what it is, only you always look so happy and contented--sort
of sweet and shiny,said Jackas he stroked the smooth brown
headrather at a loss to describe the unusually fresh and sunny
expression of Ed's facewhich was always cheerfulyet had a
certain thoughtfulness that made it very attractive to both young
Soap makes him shiny; I never saw such a fellow to wash and
brush,put in Frankas he came up with one of the pieces of music
he and Ed were fond of practising together.
I don't mean that!said Jack indignantly. "I wash and brush till
you call me a dandybut I don't have the same look--it seems to
come from the insidesomehowas if he was always jolly and
clean and good in his mindyou know."
Born so,said Frankrumbling away in the bass with a pair of
hands that would have been the better for some of the abovementioned
soapfor he did not love to do much in the washing and
I suppose that's it. Well, I like it, and I shall keep on trying, for
being loved by everyone is about the nicest thing in the world. Isn't
it, Ed?asked Jackwith a gentle tweak of the ear as he put a
question which he knew would get no answerfor Ed was so
modest he could not see wherein he differed from other boysnor
believe that the sunshine he saw in other faces was only the
reflection from his own.
Sunday evening Mrs. Minot sat by the fireplanning how she
should tell some good news she had been saving up all day. Mrs.
Pecq knew itand seemed so delighted that she went about smiling
as if she did not know what trouble meantand could not do
enough for the family. She was downstairs nowseeing that the
clothes were properly prepared for the washso there was no one
in the Bird Room but Mamma and the children. Frank was reading
up all he could find about some Biblical hero mentioned in the
day's sermon; Jill lay where she had lain for nearly four long
monthsand though her face was pale and thin with the
confinementthere was an expression on it now sweeter even than
health. Jack sat on the rug beside herlooking at a white carnation
through the magnifying glasswhile she was enjoying the perfume
of a red one as she talked to him.
If you look at the white petals you'll see that they sparkle like
marble, and go winding a long way down to the middle of the
flower where it grows sort of rosy; and in among the small, curly
leaves, like fringed curtains, you can see the little green fairy
sitting all alone. Your mother showed me that, and I think it is very
pretty. I call it a 'fairy,' but it is really where the seeds are hidden
and the sweet smell comes from.
Jill spoke softly lest she should disturb the othersandas she
turned to push up her pillowshe saw Mrs. Minot looking at her
with a smile she did not understand.
Did you speak, 'm?she askedsmiling back againwithout in the
least knowing why.
No, dear. I was listening and thinking what a pretty little story one
could make out of your fairy living alone down there, and only
known by her perfume.
Tell it, Mamma. It is time for our story, and that would be a nice
one, I guess,said Jackwho was as fond of stories as when he sat
in his mother's lap and chuckled over the hero of the beanstalk.
'We don't have fairy tales on Sundayyou know began Jill
Call it a parableand have a moral to itthen it will be all right
put in Frank, as he shut his big book, having found what he
I like stories about saintsand the good and wonderful things they
did said Jill, who enjoyed the wise and interesting bits Mrs.
Minot often found for her in grown-up books, for Jill had
thoughtful times, and asked questions which showed that she was
growing fast in mind if not in body.
This is a true story; but I will disguise it a littleand call it 'The
Miracle of Saint Lucy began Mrs. Minot, seeing a way to tell her
good news and amuse the children likewise.
Frank retired to the easy-chair, that he might sleep if the tale
should prove too childish for him. Jill settled herself among her
cushions, and Jack lay flat upon the rug, with his feet up, so that he
could admire his red slippers and rest his knee, which ached.
Once upon a time there was a queen who had two princes."
Wasn't there a princess?asked Jackinterested at once.
No; and it was a great sorrow to the queen that she had no little
daughter, for the sons were growing up, and she was often very
Like Snowdrop's mother whispered Jill.
Nowdon't keep interruptingchildrenor we never shall get on
said Frank, more anxious to hear about the boys that were than the
girl that was not.
One daywhen the princes were out--ahem! we'll say
hunting--they found a little damsel lying on the snowhalf dead
with coldthey thought. She was the child of a poor woman who
lived in the forest--a wild little thingalways dancing and singing
about; as hard to catch as a squirreland so fearless she would
climb the highest treesleap broad brooksor jump off the steep
rocks to show her courage. The boys carried her home to the
palaceand the queen was glad to have her. She had fallen and hurt
herselfso she lay in bed week after weekwith her mother to take
care of her--"
That's you,whispered Jackthrowing the white carnation at Jill
and she threw back the red onewith her finger on her lipsfor the
tale was very interesting now.
She did not suffer much after a time, but she scolded and cried,
and could not be resigned, because she was a prisoner. The queen
tried to help her, but she could not do much; the princes were kind,
but they had their books and plays, and were away a good deal.
Some friends she had came often to see her, but still she beat her
wings against the bars, like a wild bird in a cage, and soon her
spirits were all gone, and it was sad to see her.
Where was your Saint Lucy? I thought it was about her, asked
Jack, who did not like to have Jill's past troubles dwelt upon,
since his were not.
She is coming. Saints are not born--they are made after many
trials and tribulations answered his mother, looking at the fire as
if it helped her to spin her little story. Wellthe poor child used to
sing sometimes to while away the long hours--sad songs mostly
and one among them which the queen taught her was 'Sweet
This she used to sing a great deal after a while, never dreaming
that Patience was an angel who could hear and obey. But it was so;
and one night, when the girl had lulled herself to sleep with that
song, the angel came. Nobody saw the lovely spirit with tender
eyes, and a voice that was like balm. No one heard the rustle of
wings as she hovered over the little bed and touched the lips, the
eyes, the hands of the sleeper, and then flew away, leaving three
gifts behind. The girl did not know why, but after that night the
songs grew gayer, there seemed to be more sunshine everywhere
her eyes looked, and her hands were never tired of helping others
in various pretty, useful, or pleasant ways. Slowly the wild bird
ceased to beat against the bars, but sat in its cage and made music
for all in the palace, till the queen could not do without it, the poor
mother cheered up, and the princes called the girl their
Was that the miracle?asked Jackforgetting all about his
slippersas he watched Jill's eyes brighten and the color come up
in her white cheeks.
That was the miracle, and Patience can work far greater ones if
you will let her.
And the girl's name was Lucy?
Yes; they did not call her a saint then, but she was trying to be as
cheerful as a certain good woman she had heard of, and so the
queen had that name for her, though she did not let her know it for
a long time.
That's not bad for a Sunday story, but there might have been more
about the princes, seems to me,was Frank's criticismas Jill lay
very stilltrying to hide her face behind the carnationfor she had
no words to tell how touched and pleased she was to find that her
little efforts to be good had been seenrememberedand now
rewarded in this way.
There is more.
Then the story isn't done?cried Jack.
Oh dear, no; the most interesting things are to come, if you can
wait for them.
Yes, I see, this is the moral part. Now keep still, and let us have
the rest,commanded Frankwhile the others composed
themselves for the sequelsuspecting that it was rather nice
because Mamma's sober face changedand her eyes laughed as
they looked at the fire.
The elder prince was very fond of driving dragons, for the people
of that country used these fiery monsters as horses.
And got run away with, didn't he?laughed Jackaddingwith
great interestWhat did the other fellow do?
He went about fighting other people's battles, helping the poor,
and trying to do good. But he lacked judgment, so he often got into
trouble, and was in such a hurry that he did not always stop to find
out the wisest way. As when he gave away his best coat to a beggar
boy, instead of the old one which he intended to give.
I saythat isn't fairmother! Neither of them was newand the boy
needed the best more than I'd idand I wore the old one all winter
didn't I?" asked Jackwho had rather exulted over Frankand was
now taken down himself.
Yes, you did, my dear; and it was not an easy thing for my
dandiprat to do. Now listen, and I'll tell you how they both learned
to be wiser. The elder prince soon found that the big dragons were
too much for him, and set about training his own
little one, who now and then ran away with him. Its name was
Will, a good servant, but a bad master; so he learned to control it,
and in time this gave him great power over himself, and fitted him
to be a king over others.
Thank you, mother; I'll remember my part of the moral. Now give
Jack his,said Frankwho liked the dragon episodeas he had been
wrestling with his own of lateand found it hard to manage.
He had a fine example before him in a friend, and he followed it
more reasonably till he grew able to use wisely one of the best and
noblest gifts of God--benevolence.
Now tell about the girl. Was there more to that part of the story?
asked Jackwell pleased with his moralas it took Ed in likewise.
That is the best of all, but it seems as if I never should get to it.
After Patience made Lucy sweet and cheerful, she began to have a
curious power over those about her, and to work little miracles
herself, though she did not know it. The queen learned to love her
so dearly she could not let her go; she cheered up all her friends
when they came with their small troubles; the princes found bright
eyes, willing hands, and a kind heart always at their service, and
felt, without quite knowing why, that it was good for them to have
a gentle little creature to care for; so they softened their rough
manners, loud voices, and careless ways, for her sake, and when it
was proposed to take her away to her own home they could not
give her up, but said she must stay longer, didn't they?
I'd like to see them saying anything else,said Frankwhile Jack
sat up to demand fiercely
Who talks about taking Jill away?
Lucy's mother thought she ought to go, and said so, but the queen
told her how much good it did them all to have her there, and
begged the dear woman to let her little cottage and come and be
housekeeper in the palace, for the queen was getting lazy, and
liked to sit and read, and talk and sew with Lucy, better than to
look after things.
And she said she would?cried Jillclasping her hands in her
anxietyfor she had learned to love her cage now.
Yes.Mrs. Minot had no time to say morefor one of the red
slippers flew up in the airand Jack had to clap both hands over his
mouth to suppress the "hurrah!" that nearly escaped. Frank said
That's good!and nodded with his most cordial smile at Jill who
pulled herself up with cheeks now as rosy as the red carnationand
a little catch in her breath as she said to herself
It's too lovely to be true.
That's a first-rate end to a very good story,began Jackwith
grave decisionas he put on his slipper and sat up to pat Jill's hand
wishing it was not quite so like a little claw.
That's not the end; and Mamma's eyes laughed more than ever as
three astonished faces turned to herand three voices cried out
The very best of all. You must know that, while Lucy was busy
for others, she was not forgotten, and when she was expecting to
lie on her bed through the summer, plans were being made for all
sorts of pleasant changes. First of all, she was to have a nice little
brace to support the back which was growing better every day;
then, as the warm weather came on, she was to go out, or lie on the
piazza; and by and by, when school was done, she was to go with
the queen and the princes for a month or two down to the sea-side,
where fresh air and salt water were to build her up in the most
delightful way. There, now! isn't that the best ending of all?and
Mamma paused to read her answer in the bright faces of two of the
listenersfor Jill hid hers in the pillowand lay quite stillas if it
was too much for her.
That will be regularly splendid! I'll row you all about--boating is
so much easier than riding, and I like it on salt water,said
Frankgoing to sit on the arm of the sofaquite excited by the
charms of the new plan.
And I'll teach you to swim, and roll you over the beach, and get
sea-weed and shells, and no end of nice things, and we'll all come
home as strong as lions,added Jackscrambling up as if about to
set off at once.
The doctor says you have been doing finely of late, and the brace
will come to-morrow, and the first really mild day you are to have
a breath of fresh air. Won't that be good?asked Mrs. Minot
hoping her story had not been too interesting.
Is she crying?said Jackmuch concerned as he patted the pillow
in his most soothing waywhile Frank lifted one curl after another
to see what was hidden underneath.
Not tearsfor two eyes sparkled behind the fingersthen the hands
came down like clouds from before the sunand Jill's face shone
out so bright and happy it did one's heart good to see it.
I'm not crying,she said with a laugh which was fuller of blithe
music than any song she sung. "But it was so splendidit sort of
took my breath away for a minute. I thought I wasn't any better
and never should beand I made up my mind I wouldn't askit
would be so hard for anyone to tell me so. Now I see why the
doctor made me stand upand told me to get my baskets ready to
go a-Maying. I thought he was in fun; did he really mean I could
go?" asked Jillexpecting too muchfor a word of encouragement
made her as hopeful as she had been despondent before.
No, dear, not so soon as that. It will be months, probably, before
you can walk and run, as you used to; but they will soon pass. You
needn't mind about May-day; it is always too cold for flowers, and
you will find more here among your own plants, than on the hills,
to fill your baskets,answered Mrs. Minothastening to suggest
something pleasant to beguile the time of probation.
I can wait. Months are not years, and if I'm truly getting well,
everything will seem beautiful and easy to me,said Jilllaying
herself down againwith the patient look she had learned to wear
and gathering up the scattered carnations to enjoy their spicy
breathas if the fairies hidden there had taught her some of their
Dear little girl, it has been a long, hard trial for you, but it is
coming to an end, and I think you will find that it has not been
time wasted, I don't want you to be a saint quite yet, but I am sure
a gentler Jill will rise up from that sofa than the one who lay down
there in December.
How could I help growing better, when you were so good to me?
cried Jillputting up both armsas Mrs. Minot went to take Frank's
placeand he retired to the firethere to stand surveying the scene
with calm approval.
You have done quite as much for us; so we are even. I proved that
to your mother, and she is going to let the little house and take care
of the big one for me, while I borrow you to keep me happy and
make the boys gentle and kind. That is the bargain, and we get the
best of it,said Mrs. Minotlooking well pleasedwhile Jack
addedThat's so!and Frank observed with an air of conviction
'We couldn't get on without Jillpossibly."
Can I do all that? I'd idn't know I was of any use. I only tried to be
good and grateful, for there didn't seem to be anything else I could
do,said Jillwondering why they were all so fond of her.
No real trying is ever in vain. It is like the spring rain, and flowers
are sure to follow in good time. The three gifts Patience gave Saint
Lucy were courage, cheerfulness, and love, and with these one can
work the sweetest miracles in the world, as you see,and Mrs.
Minot pointed to the pretty room and its happy inmates.
Am I really the least bit like that good Lucinda? I tried to be, but I
didn't think I was,asked Jill softly.
You are very like her in all ways but one. She did not get well,
and you will.
A short answerbut it satisfied Jill to her heart's coreand that
nightwhen she lay in bedshe thought to herself: "How curious it
is that I've been a sort of missionary without knowing it! They all
love and thank meand won't let me goso I suppose I must have
done somethingbut I don't know whatexcept trying to be good
That was the secretand Jill found it out just when it was most
grateful as a reward for past effortsmost helpful as an
encouragement toward the constant well-doing which can make
even a little girl a joy and comfort to all who know and love her.
Chapter 16 Up at Merry's
Now fly round, child, and get your sweeping done up smart and
I shall want you to help me about the baking, by and by.
Roxy is cleaning the cellar-closets, so you'll have to get the
vegetables ready for dinner. Father wants a boiled dish, and I shall
be so busy I can't see to it.
A cheerful voice gave the three answersbut it cost Merry an effort
to keep it sofor she had certain little plans of her own which
made the work before her unusually distasteful. Saturday always
was a trying dayforthough she liked to see rooms in ordershe
hated to sweepas no speck escaped Mrs. Grant's eyeand only the
good old-fashioned broomwielded by a pair of strong armswas
allowed. Baking was another trial: she loved good bread and
delicate pastrybut did not enjoy burning her face over a hot stove
daubing her hands with doughor spending hours rolling out
cookies for the boys; while a "boiled dinner" was her especial
horroras it was not elegantand the washing of vegetables was a
job she always shirked when she could.
Howeverhaving made up her mind to do her work without
complaintshe ran upstairs to put on her dust-captrying to look as
if sweeping was the joy of her life.
It is such a lovely day, I'd id want to rake my garden, and have a
walk with Molly, and finish my book so I can get another,she
said with a sighas she leaned out of the open window for a breath
of the unusually mild air.
Down in the ten-acre lot the boys were carting and spreading loam;
out in the barn her father was getting his plows ready; over the hill
rose the smoke of the distant factoryand the river that turned the
wheels was gliding through the meadowswhere soon the
blackbirds would be singing. Old Bess pawed the groundeager to
be off; the gray hens were scratching busily all about the yard;
even the green things in the garden were pushing through the
brown earthsoftened by April rainsand there was a shimmer of
sunshine over the wide landscape that made every familiar object
beautiful with hints of springand the activity it brings.
Something made the old nursery hymn come into Merry's head
and humming to herself
In works of labor or of skill
I would be busy too,
she tied on her capshouldered her broomand fell to work so
energetically that she soon swept her way through the chambers
down the front stairs to the parlor doorleaving freshness and
order behind her as she went.
She always groaned when she entered that apartmentand got out
of it again as soon as possiblefor it waslike most country
parlorsa prim and chilly placewith little beauty and no comfort.
Black horse-hair furniturevery slippery and hardstood against
the wall; the table had its gift booksalbumsworsted mat and ugly
lamp; the mantel-piece its china vasespink shellsand clock that
never went; the gay carpet was kept distressingly bright by closed
shutters six days out of the sevenand a general air of go-tomeeting
solemnity pervaded the room. Merry longed to make it
pretty and pleasantbut her mother would allow of no change
thereso the girl gave up her dreams of rugs and hangingsfine
pictures and tasteful ornamentsand dutifully aireddustedand
shut up this awful apartment once a weekprivately resolving that
if she ever had a parlor of her ownit should not be as dismal as a
The dining-room was a very different placefor here Merry had
been allowed to do as she likedyet so gradual had been the
changethat she would have found it difficult to tell how it came
about. It seemed to begin with the flowersfor her father kept his
word about the "posy pots and got enough to make quite a little
conservatory in the bay-window, which was sufficiently large for
three rows all round, and hanging-baskets overhead. Being
discouraged by her first failure, Merry gave up trying to have
things nice everywhere, and contented herself with making that
one nook so pretty that the boys called it her bower." Even busy
Mrs. Grant owned that plants were not so messy as she expected
and the fanner was never tired of watching "little daughter" as she
sat at work therewith her low chair and table full of books.
The lamp helpedalsofor Merry set up her ownand kept it so
well trimmed that it burned clear and brightshining on the green
arch of ivy overheadand on the nasturtium vines framing the old
glassand peeping at their gay little facesand at the pretty young
girlso pleasantly that first her father came to read his paper by it
then her mother slipped in to rest on the lounge in the cornerand
finally the boys hovered about the door as if the "settin'-room" had
grown more attractive than the kitchen.
But the open fire did more than anything else to win and hold them
allas it seldom fails to do when the black demon of an airtight
stove is banished from the hearth. After the room was cleaned till
it shoneMerry begged to have the brass andirons put inand
offered to keep them as bright as gold if her mother would
consent. So the great logs were kindledand the flames went
dancing up the chimney as if glad to be set free from their prison.
It changed the whole room like magicand no one could
resist the desire to enjoy its cheery comfort. The farmer's
three-cornered leathern chair soon stood on one sideand mother's
rocker on the otheras they toasted their feet and dozed or chatted
in the pleasant warmth.
The boys' slippers were always ready on the hearth; and when the
big boots were once offthey naturally settled down about the
tablewhere the tall lampwith its pretty shade of pressed autumn
leavesburned brightlyand the books and papers lay ready to their
hands instead of being tucked out of sight in the closet. They were
beginning to see that "Merry's notions" had some sense in them
since they were made comfortableand good-naturedly took some
pains to please her in various ways. Tom brushed his hair and
washed his hands nicely before he came to table. Dick tried to
lower his boisterous laughterand Harry never smoked in the
sitting-room. Even Roxy expressed her pleasure in seeing "things
kind of spruced up and Merry's gentle treatment of the
hard-working drudge won her heart entirely.
The girl was thinking of these changes as she watered her flowers,
dusted the furniture, and laid the fire ready for kindling; and, when
all was done, she stood a minute to enjoy the pleasant room, full of
spring sunshine, fresh air, and exquisite order. It seemed to give
her heart for more distasteful labors, and she fell to work at the
pies as cheerfully as if she liked it.
Mrs. Grant was flying about the kitchen, getting the loaves of
brown and white bread ready for the big oven. Roxy's voice came
up from the cellar singing Bounding Billows with a swashing
and scrubbing accompaniment which suggested that she was
actually enjoying a life on the ocean wave." Merryin her neat
cap and apronstood smiling over her work as she deftly rolled and
clippedfilled and coveredfinding a certain sort of pleasure in
doing it welland adding interest to it by crimping the crust
making pretty devices with strips of paste and star-shaped
prickings of the fork.
Good-will giveth skill,says the proverband even particular Mrs.
Grant was satisfied when she paused to examine the pastry with
her experienced eye.
You are a handy child and a credit to your bringing up, though I
do say it. Those are as pretty pies as I'd wish to eat, if they bake
well, and there's no reason why they shouldn't.
May I make some tarts or rabbits of these bits? The boys like
them, and I enjoy modelling this sort of thing,said Merrywho
was trying to mould a birdas she had seen Ralph do with clay to
amuse Jill while the bust was going on.
No, dear; there's no time for knick-knacks to-day. The beets ought
to be on this minute. Run and get 'em, and be sure you scrape the
Poor Merry put away the delicate task she was just beginning to
likeand taking a pan went down cellarwishing vegetables could
be grown without earthfor she hated to put her hands in dirty
water. A word of praise to Roxy made that grateful scrubber leave
her work to poke about in the root-cellarchoosing "sech as was
pretty much of a muchnesselse they wouldn't bile even"; so Merry
was spared that part of the joband went up to scrape and wash
without complaintsince it was for father. She was repaid at noon
by the relish with which he enjoyed his dinnerfor Merry tried to
make even a boiled dish pretty by arranging the beetscarrots
turnipsand potatoes in contrasting colorswith the beef hidden
under the cabbage leaves.
Now, I'll rest and read for an hour, then I'll rake my garden, or run
down town to see Molly and get some seeds,she thought to
herselfas she put away the spoons and glasseswhich she liked to
washthat they might always be clear and bright.
If you've done all your own mending, there's a heap of socks to be
looked over. Then I'll show you about darning the tablecloths. I do
hate to have a stitch of work left over till Monday,said Mrs.
Grantwho never took napsand prided herself on sitting down to
her needle at 3 P.M. every day.
Yes, mother; and Merry went slowly upstairsfeeling that a part
of Saturday ought to be a holiday after books and work all the
week. As she braided up her hairher eye fell upon the reflection
of her own face in the glass. Not a happy nor a pretty one just then
and Merry was so unaccustomed to seeing any otherthat
involuntarily the frown smoothed itself outthe eyes lost their
weary lookthe drooping lips curved into a smileandleaning her
elbows on the bureaushe shook her head at herselfsayinghalf
aloudas she glanced at Ivanhoe lying near
You needn't look so cross and ugly just because you can't have
what you want. Sweeping, baking, and darning are not so bad as
being plagued with lovers and carried off and burnt at the stake, so
I won't envy poor Rebecca her jewels and curls and romantic
times, but make the best of my own.
Then she laughedand the bright face came back into the mirror
looking like an old friendand Merry went on dressing with care
for she took pleasure in her own little charmsand felt a sense of
comfort in knowing that she could always have one pretty thing to
look at if she kept her own face serene and sweet. It certainly
looked so as it bent over the pile of big socks half an hour later
and brightened with each that was laid aside. Her mother saw it
andguessing why such wistful glances went from clock to
windowkindly shortened the task of table-cloth darning by doing
a good bit herselfbefore putting it into Merry's hands.
She was a good and loving mother in spite of her strict waysand
knew that it was better for her romantic daughter to be learning all
the housewifery lessons she could teach herthan to be reading
novelswriting versesor philandering about with her head full of
girlish fanciesquite innocent in themselvesbut not the stuff to
live on. So she wisely taught the hands that preferred to pick
flowerstrim up rooms and mould birdsto work well with needle
broomand rolling-pin; put a receipt-book before the eyes that
loved to laugh and weep over tender talesand kept the young head
and heart safe and happy with wholesome dutiesuseful studies
and such harmless pleasures as girls should loveinstead of letting
them waste their freshness in vague longingsidle dreamsand
But it was often hard to thwart the docile childand lately she had
seemed to be growing up so fast that her mother began to feel a
new sort of tenderness for this sweet daughterwho was almost
ready to take upon herself the caresas well as triumphs and
delightsof maidenhood. Something in the droop of the brown
headand the quick motion of the busy hand with a little burn on
itmade it difficult for Mrs. Grant to keep Merry at work that day
and her eye watched the clock almost as impatiently as the girl's
for she liked to see the young face brighten when the hour of
What next?asked Merryas the last stitch was setand she
stifled a sigh on hearing the clock strike fourfor the sun was
getting lowand the lovely afternoon going fast
One more job, if you are not too tired for it. I want the receipt for
diet drink Miss Dawes promised me; would you like to run down
and get it for me, dear?
Yes, mother!and that answer was as blithe as a robin's chirpfor
that was just where Merry wanted to go.
Away went thimble and scissorsand in five minutes away went
Merryskipping down the hill without a care in the worldfor a
happy heart sat singing withinand everything seemed full of
She had a capital time with Mollycalled on Jilldid her shopping
in the villageand had just turned to walk up the hillwhen Ralph
Evans came tramping along behind herlooking so pleased and
proud about something that she could not help asking what it was
for they were great friendsand Merry thought that to be an artist
was the most glorious career a man could choose.
I know you've got some good news,she saidlooking up at him
as he touched his hat and fell into step with herseeming more
contented than before.
I have, and was just coming up to tell you, for I was sure you
would be glad. It is only a hope, a chance, but it is so splendid I
feel as if I must shout and dance, or fly over a fence or two, to let
Do tell me, quick; have you got an order?asked Merryfull of
interest at oncefor artistic vicissitudes were very romanticand
she liked to hear about them.
I may go abroad in the autumn.
Oh, how lovely!
Isn't it? David German is going to spend a year in Rome, to finish
a statue, and wants me to go along. Grandma is willing, as cousin
Maria wants her for a long visit, so everything looks promising and
I really think I may go.
Won't it cost a great deal?asked Merrywhoin spite of her little
elegancieshad a good deal of her thrifty mother's common sense.
Yes; and I've got to earn it. But I can--I know I can, for I've saved
some, and I shall work like ten beavers all summer. I won't borrow
if I can help it, but I know someone who would lend me five
hundred if I wanted it; and Ralph looked as eager and secure as if
the earning of twice that sum was a mere trifle when all the
longing of his life was put into his daily tasks.
I wish 1 had it to give you. It must be so splendid to feel that you
can do great things if you only have the chance. And to travel, and
see all the lovely pictures and statues, and people and places in
Italy. Flow happy you must be!and Merry's eyes had the wistful
look they always wore when she dreamed dreams of the world she
loved to live in.
I am--so happy that I'm afraid it never will happen. If I do go, I'll
write and tell you all about the fine sights, and how I get on.
Would you like me to?asked Ralphbeginning enthusiastically
and ending rather bashfullyfor he admired Merry very muchand
was not quite sure how this proposal would be received.
Indeed I should! I'd feel so grand to have letters from Paris and
Rome, and you'd have so much to tell it would be almost as good
as going myself,she saidlooking off into the daffodil skyas they
paused a minute on the hill-top to get breathfor both had walked
as fast as they talked.
And will you answer the letters?asked Ralphwatching the
innocent facewhich looked unusually kind and beautiful to him in
that soft light.
'Whyyes; I'd love toonly I shall not have anything interesting to
say. What can I write about?" and Merry smiled as she thought
how dull her letters would sound after the exciting details his
would doubtless give.
Write about yourself, and all the rest of the people I know.
Grandma will be gone, and I shall want to hear how you get on.
Ralph looked very anxious indeed to hearand Merry promised she
would tell all about the other peopleaddingas she turned from
the evening peace and loveliness to the housewhence came the
clatter of milk-pans and the smell of cooking
I never should have anything very nice to tell about myself, for I
don't do interesting things as you do, and you wouldn't care to hear
about school, and sewing, and messing round at home.
Merry gave a disdainful little sniff at the savory perfume of ham
which saluted themand paused with her hand on the gateas if
she found it pleasanter out there than in the house. Ralph seemed
to agree with herforleaning on the gatehe lingered to saywith
real sympathy in his tone and something else in his faceYes, I
should; so you write and tell me all about it. I didn't
know you had any worries, for you always seemed like one of the
happiest people in the world, with so many to pet and care for you,
and plenty of money, and nothing very hard or hateful to do. You'd
think you were well off if you knew as much about poverty and
work and never getting what you want, as I do.
You bear your worries so well that nobody knows you have them.
I ought not to complain, and I won't, for I do have all I need. I'm so
glad you are going to get what you want at last; and Merry held
out her hand to say good-nightwith so much pleasure in her face
that Ralph could not make up his mind to go just yet.
I shall have to scratch round in a lively way before I do get it, for
David says a fellow can't live on less than four or five hundred a
year, even living as poor artists have to, in garrets and on Crusts. I
don't mind as long as Grandma is all right. She is away to-night, or
I should not be here,he addedas if some excuse was necessary.
Merry needed no hintfor her tender heart was touched by the
vision of her friend in a garretand she suddenly rejoiced that there
was ham and eggs for supperso that he might be well fed onceat
leastbefore he went away to feed on artistic crusts.
Being here, come in and spend the evening. The boys will like to
hear the news, and so will father. Do, now.
It was impossible to refuse the invitation he had been longing for
and in they went to the great delight of Roxywho instantly retired
to the pantrysmiling significantlyand brought out the most
elaborate pie in honor of the occasion. Merry touched up the table
and put a little vase of flowers in the middle to redeem the
vulgarity of doughnuts. Of course the boys upset itbut as there
was company nothing was saidand Ralph devoured his supper
with the appetite of a hungry boywhile watching Merry eat bread
and cream out of an old-fashioned silver porringerand thinking it
the sweetest sight he ever beheld.
Then the young people gathered about the tablefull of the new
plansand the elders listened as they rested after the week's work.
A pleasant eveningfor they all liked Ralphbut as the parents
watched Merry sitting among the great lads like a little queen
among her subjectshalf unconscious as yet of the power in her
handsthey nodded to one anotherand then shook their heads as if
I'm afraid the time is coming, mother.
No danger as long as she don't know it, father.
At nine the boys went off to the barnthe farmer to wind up the
eight-day clockand the housewife to see how the baked beans and
Indian pudding for to-morrow were getting on in the oven. Ralph
took up his hat to gosaying as he looked at the shade on the tall
What a good light that gives! I can see it as I go home every night,
and it burns up here like a beacon. I always look for it, and it
hardly ever fails to be burning. Sort of cheers up the way, you
know, when I'm tired or low in my mind.
Then I'm very glad I got it. I liked the shape, but the boys laughed
at it as they did at my buirushes in a ginger-jar over there. I'd been
reading about 'household art,' and I thought I'd try a little,
answered Merrylaughing at her own whims.
You've got a better sort of household art, I think, for you make
people happy and places pretty, without fussing over it. This room
is ever so much improved every time I come, though I hardly see
what it is except the flowers,said Ralphlooking from the girl to
the tall calla that bent its white cup above her as if to pour its dew
upon her head.
Isn't that lovely? I tried to draw it--the shape was so graceful I
wanted to keep it. But I couldn't. Isn't it a pity such beautiful things
won't last forever?and Merry looked regretfully at the half-faded
one that grew beside the fresh blossom.
I can keep it for you. It would look well in plaster. May I?asked
Thank you, I should like that very much. Take the real one as a
model--please do; there are more coming, and this will brighten up
your room for a day or two.
As she spokeMerry cut the stemandadding two or three of the
great green leavesput the handsome flower in his hand with so
much good-will that he felt as if he had received a very precious
gift. Then he said good-night so gratefully that Merry's hand quite
tingled with the grasp of hisand went awayoften looking
backward through the darkness to where the light burned brightly
on the hill-top--the beacon kindled by an unconscious Hero for a
young Leander swimming gallantly against wind and tide toward
the goal of his ambition.
Chapter 17 Down at Molly's
Now, my dears, I've something very curious to tell you, so listen
quietly and then I'll give you your dinners,said Mollyaddressing
the nine cats who came trooping after her as she went into the
shed-chamber with a bowl of milk and a plate of scraps in her
hands. She had taught them to behave well at mealssothough
their eyes glared and their tails quivered with impatiencethey
obeyed; and when she put the food on a high shelf and retired to
the big basketthe four old cats sat demurely down before her
while the five kits scrambled after her and tumbled into her lapas
if hoping to hasten the desired feast by their innocent gambols.
GrannyTobiasMortificationand Molasses were the elders.
Grannya gray old pusswas the mother and grandmother of all the
rest. Tobias was her eldest sonand Mortification his brotherso
named because he had lost his tailwhich affliction depressed his
spirits and cast a blight over his young life. Molasses was a yellow
catthe mamma of four of the kitsthe fifth being Granny's latest
darling. Toddlekinsthe little auntwas the image of her mother
and very sedate even at that early age; Miss Muffetso called from
her dread of spiderswas a timid black and white kit; Beautya
pretty Maltesewith a serene little face and pink nose; Ragbaga
funny thingevery color that a cat could be; and Scampwho well
deserved his namefor he was the plague of Miss Bat's lifeand
Molly's especial pet.
He was now perched on her shoulderandas she talkedkept
peeping into her face or biting her ear in the most impertinent way
while the others sprawled in her lap or promenaded round the
My friends, something very remarkable has happened: Miss Bat is
cleaning house!andhaving made this announcementMolly
leaned back to see how the cats received itfor she insisted that
they understood all she said to them.
Tobias staredMortification lay down as if it was too much for
himMolasses beat her tail on the floor as if whipping a dusty
carpetand Granny began to purr approvingly. The giddy kits paid
no attentionas they did not know what house-cleaning meant
happy little dears!
I thought you'd like it, Granny, for you are a decent cat, and know
what is proper,continued Mollyleaning down to stroke the old
pusswho blinked affectionately at her. "I can't imagine what put it
into Miss Bat's head. I never said a wordand gave up groaning
over the clutteras I couldn't mend it. I just took care of Boo and
myselfand left her to be as untidy as she pleasedand she is a
Here Scamp put his paw on her lips because he saw them moving
but it seemed as if it was to check the disrespectful word just
Well, I won't call names; but what shall I do when I see
everything in confusion, and she won't let me clear up?asked
Mollylooking round at Scampwho promptly put the little paw on
her eyelidas if the roll of the blue ball underneath amused him.
Shut my eyes to it, you mean? I do all I can, but it is hard, when I
wish to be nice, and do try; don't I?asked Molly. But Scamp was
ready for herand began to comb her hair with both paws as he
stood on his hind legs to work so busily that Molly laughed and
pulled him downsayingas she cuddled the sly kit.
You sharp little thing! I know my hair is not neat now, for I've
been chasing Boo round the garden to wash him for school. Then
Miss Bat threw the parlor carpet out of the window, and I was so
surprised I had to run and tell you. Now, what had we better do
The cats all winked at herbut no one had any advice to offer
except Tobiaswho walked to the shelfandlooking uputtered a
deepsuggestive yowlwhich said as plainly as wordsDinner
first and discussion afterward.
Very well, don't scramble,said Mollygetting up to feed her
pets. First the kitswho rushed at the bowl and thrust their heads
inlapping as if for a wager; then the catswho each went to one of
the four piles of scraps laid round at intervals and placidly ate their
meat; while Molly retired to the basketto ponder over the
phenomena taking place in the house.
She could not imagine what had started the old lady. It was not the
example of her neighborswho had beaten carpets and scrubbed
paint every spring for years without exciting her to any greater
exertion than cleaning a few windows and having a man to clear
away the rubbish displayed when the snow melted. Molly never
guessed that her own efforts were at the bottom of the changeor
knew that a few words not meant for her ear had shamed Miss Bat
into action. Coming home from prayer-meeting one dark nightshe
trotted along behind two old ladies who were gossiping in loud
voicesas one was rather deafand Miss Bat was both pleased and
troubled to hear herself unduly praised.
I always said Sister Dawes meant well; but she's getting into
years, and the care of two children is a good deal for her, with her
cooking and her rheumatiz. I don't deny she did neglect 'em for a
spell, but she does well by 'em now, and I wouldn't wish to see
You've no idee how improved Molly is. She came in to see my
girls, and brought her sewing-work, shirts for the boy, and done it
as neat and capable as you'd wish to see. She always was a smart
child, but dreadful careless,said the other old ladyevidently
much impressed by the change in harum-scarum Molly Loo.
Being over to Mis Minot's so much has been good for her, and up
to Mis Grant's. Girls catch neat ways as quick as they'd o untidy
ones, and them wild little tykes often turn out smart women.
Sister Dawes has done well by them children, and I hope Mr.
Bemis sees it. He ought to give her something comfortable to live
on when she can't do for him any longer. He can well afford it.
I haven't a doubt he will. He's a lavish man when he starts to do a
thing, but dreadful unobserving, else he'd have seen to matters long
ago. Them children was town-talk last fall, and I used to feel as if
it was my bounden duty to speak to Miss Dawes. But I never did,
fearing I might speak too plain, and hurt her feelings.
You've spoken plain enough now, and I'm beholden to you,
though you'll never know it,said Miss Bat to herselfas she
slipped into her own gatewhile the gossips trudged on quite
unconscious of the listener behind them.
Miss Bat was a worthy old soul in the mainonlylike so many of
usshe needed rousing up to her duty. She had got the rousing
nowand it did her goodfor she could not bear to be praised when
she had not deserved it. She had watched Molly's efforts with lazy
interestand when the girl gave up meddling with her affairsas
she called the housekeepingMiss Bat ceased to oppose herand
let her scrub Boomend clothesand brush her hair as much as she
liked. So Molly had worked along without any help from her
running in to Mrs. Pecq for adviceto Merry for comfortor Mrs.
Minot for the higher kind of help one often needs so much. Now
Miss Bat found that she was getting the credit and the praise
belonging to other peopleand it stirred her up to try and deserve a
part at least.
Molly don't want any help about her work or the boy: it's too late
for that; but if this house don't get a spring cleaning that will make
it shine, my name ain't Bathsheba Dawes,said the old ladyas she
put away her bonnet that nightand laid energetic plans for a grand
revolutioninspired thereto not only by shamebut by the hint that
Mr. Bemis was a lavish man,as no one knew better than she.
Molly's amazement next day at seeing carpets fly out of window
ancient cobwebs come downand long-undisturbed closets routed
out to the great dismay of moths and micehas been already
confided to the catsand as she sat there watching them lap and
gnawshe said to herself
I don't understand it, but as she never says much to me about my
affairs, I won't take any notice till she gets through, then I'll admire
everything all I can. It is so pleasant to be praised after you've been
She might well say thatfor she got very little herselfand her
trials had been manyher efforts not always successfuland her
reward seemed a long way off. Poor Boo could have sympathized
with herfor he had suffered much persecution from his small
schoolmates when he appeared with large gray patches on the little
brown trouserswhere he had worn them out coasting down those
too fascinating steps. As he could not see the patches himselfhe
fancied them invisibleand came home much afflicted by the jeers
of his friends. Then Molly tried to make him a new pair out of a
sack of her own; but she cut both sides for the same legso one
was wrong side out. Fondly hoping no one would observe itshe
sewed bright buttons wherever they could be putand sent
confiding Boo away in a pair of blue trouserswhich were absurdly
hunchy behind and buttony before. He came home heart-broken
and muddyhaving been accidentally tipped into a mud-puddle by
two bad boys who felt that such tailoring was an insult to mankind.
That roused Molly's spiritand she begged her father to take the
boy and have him properly fitted outas he was old enough now to
be well-dressedand she wouldn't have him tormented. His
attention being called to the trousersMr. Bemis had a good laugh
over themand then got Boo a suit which caused him to be the
admired of all observersand to feel as proud as a little peacock.
Cheered by this successMolly undertook a set of small shirtsand
stitched away bravelythough her own summer clothes were in a
sad stateand for the first time in her life she cared about what she
I must ask Merry, and maybe father will let me go with her and
her mother when they do their shopping, instead of leaving it to
Miss Bat, who dresses me like an old woman. Merry knows what
is pretty and becoming: I don't,thought Mollymeditating in the
bushel basketwith her eyes on her snuff-colored gown and the
dark purple bow at the end of the long braid Muffet had been
Molly was beginning to see that even so small a matter as the
choice of colors made a difference in one's appearanceand to
wonder why Merry always took such pains to have a blue tie for
the gray dressa rosy one for the brownand gloves that matched
her bonnet ribbons. Merry never wore a locket outside her sacka
gay bow in her hair and soiled cuffsa smart hat and the braid
worn off her skirts. She was exquisitely neat and simpleyet
always looked well-dressed and pretty; for her love of beauty
taught her what all girls should learn as soon as they begin to care
for appearances--that neatness and simplicity are their best
ornamentsthat good habits are better than fine clothesand the
most elegant manners are the kindest.
All these thoughts were dancing through Molly's headand when
she left her catsafter a general romp in which even decorous
Granny allowed her family to play leap-frog over her respectable
backshe had made up her mind not to have yellow ribbons on her
summer hat if she got a pink muslin as she had plannedbut to
finish off Boo's last shirt before she went shopping with Merry.
It rained that eveningand Mr. Bemis had a headacheso he threw
himself down upon the lounge after tea for a napwith his silk
handkerchief spread over his face. He did get a napand when he
waked he lay for a time drowsily listening to the patter of the rain
and another sound which was even more soothing. Putting back a
corner of the handkerchief to learn what it washe saw Molly
sitting by the fire with Boo in her laprocking and humming as she
warmed his little bare feethaving learned to guard against croup
by attending to the damp shoes and socks before going to bed. Boo
lay with his round face turned up to hersstroking her cheek while
the sleepy blue eyes blinked lovingly at her as she sang her lullaby
with a motherly patience sweet to see. They made a pretty little
pictureand Mr. Bemis looked at it with pleasurehaving a leisure
moment in which to discoveras all parents do sooner or laterthat
his children were growing up.
Molly is getting to be quite a woman, and very like her mother,
thought papawiping the eye that peepedfor he had been fond of
the pretty wife who died when Boo was born. "Sad loss to them
poor things! But Miss Bat seems to have done well by them. Molly
is much improvedand the boy looks finely. She's a good soul
after all"; and Mr. Bemis began to think he had been hasty when
he half made up his mind to get a new housekeeperfeeling that
burnt steakweak coffeeand ragged wristbands were sure signs
that Miss Bat's days of usefulness were over.
Molly was singing the lullaby her mother used to sing to herand
her father listened to it silently till Boo was carried away too
sleepy for anything but bed. When she came back she sat down to
her workfancying her father still asleep. She had a crimson bow
at her throat and one on the newly braided hairher cuffs were
cleanand a white apron hid the shabbiness of the old dress. She
looked like a thrifty little housewife as she sat with her basket
beside her full of neat white rollsher spools set forthand a new
pair of scissors shining on the table. There was a sort of charm in
watching the busy needle flash to and frothe anxious pucker of
the forehead as she looked to see if the stitches were evenand the
expression of intense relief upon her face as she surveyed the
finished button-hole with girlish satisfaction. Her father was wide
awake and looking at herthinkingas he did so
Really the old lady has worked well to change my tomboy into
that nice little girl: I wonder how she did it.Then he gave a yawn
pulled off the handkerchiefand said aloud'What are you making
Molly?" for it struck him that sewing was a new amusement.
Shirts for Boo, sir. Four, and this is the last,she answeredwith
pardonable prideas she held it up and nodded toward the pile in
Isn't that a new notion? I thought Miss Bat did the sewing,said
Mr. Bemisas he smiled at the funny little garmentit looked so
like Boo himself.
No, sir; only yours. I do mine and Boo's. At least, I'm learning
how, and Mrs. Pecq says I get on nicely,answered Molly
threading her needle and making a knot in her most capable way.
I suppose it is time you did learn, for you are getting to be a great
girl, and all women should know how to make and mend. You
must take a stitch for me now and then: Miss Bat's eyes are not
what they were, I find; and Mr. Bemis looked at his frayed
wristbandas if he particularly felt the need of a stitch just then.
I'd love to, and I guess I could. I can mend gloves; Merry taught
me, so I'd better begin on them, if you have any,said Mollymuch
pleased at being able to do anything for her fatherand still more
so at being asked.
There's something to start with; and he threw her a pairwith
nearly every finger ripped.
Molly shook her head over thembut got out her gray silk and fell
to workglad to show how well she could sew.
What are you smiling about?asked her fatherafter a little pause
for his head felt betterand it amused him to question Molly.
I was thinking about my summer clothes. I must get them before
long, and I'd like to go with Mrs. Grant and learn how to shop, if
you are willing.
I thought Miss Bat did that for you.
She always has, but she gets ugly, cheap things that I don't like. I
think I am old enough to choose myself, if there is someone to tell
me about prices and the goodness of the stuff. Merry does; and she
is only a few months older than I am.
How old are you, child?asked her fatherfeeling as if he had lost
Fifteen in August; and Molly looked very proud of the fact.
So you are! Bless my heart, how the time goes! Well, get what
you please; if I'm to have a young lady here, I'd like to have her
prettily dressed. It won't offend Miss Bat, will it?
Molly's eyes sparkledbut she gave a little shrug as she answered
She won't care. She never troubles herself about me if I iet ncr
Hey? what? Not trouble herself? If she doesn'twho does?" and
Mr. Bemis sat up as if this discovery was more surprising than the
I take care of myself and Boo, and she looks after you. The house
I should think so! I nearly broke my neck over the parlor sofa in
the hall to-night. What is it there for?
Molly laughed. "That's the jokesirMiss Bat is cleaning house
and I'm sure it needs cleaningfor it is years since it was properly
done. I thought you might have told her to."
I've said nothing. Don't like house-cleaning well enough to
suggest it. I did think the hall was rather dirty when I dropped my
coat and took it up covered with lint. Is she going to upset the
whole place?asked Mr. Bemislooking alarmed at the prospect.
I hope so, for I really am ashamed when people come, to have
them see the dust and cobwebs, and old carpets and dirty
windows,said Mollywith a sighthough she never had cared a
bit till lately.
Why don't you dust round a little, then? No time to spare from the
books and play?
I tried, father, but Miss Bat didn't like it, and it was too hard for
me alone. If things were once in nice order, I think I could keep
them so; for I do want to be neat, and I'm learning as fast as I can.
It is high time someone took hold, if matters are left as you say.
I've just been thinking what a clever woman Miss Bat was, to make
such a tidy little girl out of what I used to hear called the greatest
tomboy in town, and wondering what I could give the old lady.
Now I find you are the one to be thanked, and it is a very pleasant
surprise to me.
Give her the present, please; I'm satisfied, if you like what I've
done. It isn't much, and I'd idn't know as you would ever observe
any difference. But I'd id try, and now I guess I'm really getting
on,said Mollysewing away with a bright color in her cheeksfor
shetoofound it a pleasant surprise to be praised after many
failures and few successes.
You certainly are, my dear. I'll wait till the house-cleaning is over,
and then, if we are all alive, I'll see about Miss Bat's reward.
Meantime, you go with Mrs. Grant and get whatever you and the
boy need, and send the bills to me; and Mr. Bemis lighted a cigar
as if that matter was settled.
Oh, thank you, sir! That will be splendid. Merry always has pretty
things, and I know you will like me when I get fixed,said Molly
smoothing down her apronwith a little air.
Seems to me you look very well as you are. Isn't that a pretty
enough frock?asked Mr. Bemisquite unconscious that his own
unusual interest in his daughter's affairs made her look so bright
This? Why, father, I've worn it all winter, and it's frightfully ugly,
and almost in rags. I asked you for a new one a month ago, and you
said you'd 'see about it'; but you didn't, so I patched this up as well
as I could; and Molly showed her elbowsfeeling that such
masculine blindness as this deserved a mild reproof.
Too bad! Well, go and get half a dozen pretty muslin and
gingham things, and be as gay as a butterfly, to make up for it,
laughed her fatherreally touched by the patches and Molly's
resignation to the unreliable "I'll see about it which he recognized
as a household word.
Molly clapped her hands, old gloves and all, exclaiming, with
girlish delight, How nice it will seem to have a plenty of new
neat dresses all at onceand be like other girls! Miss Bat always
talks about economyand has no more taste than a--caterpillar."
Molly meant to say "cat but remembering her pets, spared them
I think I can afford to dress my girl as well as Grant does his. Get
a new hat and coatchildand any little notions you fancy. Miss
Bat's economy isn't the sort I like"; and Mr. Bemis looked at his
wristbands againas if he could sympathize with Molly's elbows.
At this rate, I shall have more clothes than I know what to do
with, after being a rag-bag,thought the girlin great gleeas she
bravely stitched away at the worst glovewhile her father smoked
silently for a whilefeeling that several little matters had escaped
his eye which he really ought to "see about."
Presently he went to his deskbut not to bury himself in business
papersas usualforafter rummaging in several drawershe took
out a small bunch of keysand sat looking at them with an
expression only seen on his face when he looked up at the portrait
of a dark-eyed woman hanging in his room. He was a very busy
manbut he had a tender place in his heart for his children; and
when a looka few wordsa moment's reflectioncalled his
attention to the fact that his little girl was growing uphe found
both pride and pleasure in the thought that this young daughter was
trying to fill her mother's placeand be a comfort to himif he
would let her.
Molly, my dear, here is something for you,he said; and when she
stood beside himaddedas he put the keys into her handkeeping
both in his own for a minute
Those are the keys to your mother's things. I always meant you to
have them, when you were old enough to use or care for them. I
think you'ii fancy this better than any other present, for you are a
good child, and very like her.
Something seemed to get into his throat thereand Molly put her
arm round his necksayingwith a little choke in her own voice
Thank you, father, I'd rather have this than anything else in the
world, and I'll try to be more like her every day, for your sake.
He kissed her, then said, as he began to stir his papers about, I
must write some letters. Run off to bedchild. Good-nightmy
Seeing that he wanted to be aloneMolly slipped awayfeeling that
she had received a very precious gift; for she remembered the dear
dead motherand had often longed to possess the relics laid away
in the one room where order reigned and Miss Bat had no power to
meddle. As she siowly undressedshe was not thinking of the
pretty new gowns in which she was to be "as gay as a butterfly
but of the half-worn garments waiting for her hands to unfold with
a tender touch; and when she fell asleep, with the keys under her
pillow and her arms round Boo, a few happy tears on her cheeks
seemed to show that, in trying to do the duty which lay nearest her,
she had earned a very sweet reward.
So the little missionaries succeeded better in their second attempt
than in their first; for, though still very far from being perfect girls,
each was slowly learning, in her own way, one of the three lessons
all are the better for knowing--that cheerfulness can change
misfortune into love and friends; that in ordering one's self aright
one helps others to do the same; and that the power of finding
beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.
Chapter 18 May Baskets
Spring was late that year, but to Jill it seemed the loveliest she had
ever known, for hope was growing green and strong in her own
little heart, and all the world looked beautiful. With the help of the
brace she could sit up for a short time every day, and when the air
was mild enough she was warmly wrapped and allowed to look out
at the open window into the garden, where the gold and purple
crocuses were coming bravely up, and the snowdrops nodded their
delicate heads as if calling to her,
Good daylittle sistercome out and play with usfor winter is
over and spring is here."
I wish I could!thought Jillas the soft wind kissed a tinge of
color into her pale cheeks. "Never mindthey have been shut up in
a darker place than I for monthsand had no fun at all; I won't fret
but think about July and the seashore while I work."
The job now in hand was May basketsfor it was the custom of the
children to hang them on the doors of their friends the night before
May-day; and the girls had agreed to supply baskets if the boys
would hunt for flowersmuch the harder task of the two. Jill had
more leisure as well as taste and skill than the other girlsso she
amused herself with making a goodly store of pretty baskets of all
shapessizesand colorsquite confident that they would be filled
though not a flower had shown its head except a few hardy
dandelionsand here and there a small cluster of saxifrage.
The violets would not open their blue eyes till the sunshine was
warmerthe columbines refused to dance with the boisterous east
windthe ferns kept themselves rolled up in their brown flannel
jacketsand little Hepaticawith many another spring beautyhid
away in the woodsafraid to venture outin spite of the eager
welcome awaiting them. But the birds had comepunctual as ever
and the bluejays were screaming in the orchardrobins were
perking up their heads and tails as they went house-huntingpurple
finches in their little red hoods were feasting on the spruce buds
and the faithful chip birds chirped gayly on the grapevine trellis
where they had lived all winterwarming their little gray breasts
against the southern side of the house when the sun shoneand
hiding under the evergreen boughs when the snow fell.
That tree is a sort of bird's hotel,said Jilllooking out at the tall
spruce before her windowevery spray now tipped with a soft
green. "They all go there to sleep and eatand it has room for
everyoneIt is green when other trees diethe wind can't break it
and the snow only makes it look prettier. It sings to meand nods
as if it knew I loved it."
We might call it 'The Holly Tree Inn,' as some of the cheap
eating-houses for poor people are called in the city, as my holly
bush grows at its foot for a sign. You can be the landlady, and feed
your feathery customers every day, till the hard times are over,
said Mrs. Minotglad to see the child's enjoyment of the outer
world from which she had been shut so long.
Jill liked the fancyand gladly strewed crumbs on the window
ledge for the chippieswho came confidingly to eat almost from
her hand. She threw out grain for the handsome jaysthe jaunty
robinsand the neighbors' doveswho came with soft flight to trip
about on their pink feetarching their shining necks as they cooed
and pecked. Carrots and cabbage-leaves also flew out of the
window for the marauding gray rabbitlast of all Jack's half-dozen
who led him a weary life of it because they would not stay in the
Bunny-housebut undermined the garden with their burrowsate
the neighbors' plantsand refused to be caught till all but one ran
awayto Jack's great relief. This old fellow camped out for the
winterand seemed to get on very well among the cats and the
henswho shared their stores with himand he might be seen at all
hours of the day and night scampering about the placeor kicking
up his heels by moonlightfor he was a desperate poacher.
Jill took great delight in her pretty pensionerswho soon learned to
love "The Holly Tree Inn and to feel that the Bird Room held a
caged comrade; for, when it was too cold or wet to open the
windows, the doves came and tapped at the pane, the chippies sat
on the ledge in plump little bunches as if she were their sunshine,
the jays called her in their shrill voices to ring the dinner-bell, and
the robins tilted on the spruce boughs where lunch was always to
The first of May came on Sunday, so all the celebrating must be
done on Saturday, which happily proved fair, though too chilly for
muslin gowns, paper garlands, and picnics on damp grass. Being a
holiday, the boys decided to devote the morning to ball and the
afternoon to the flower hunt, while the girls finished the baskets;
and in the evening our particular seven were to meet at the Minots
to fill them, ready for the closing frolic of hanging on
door-handles, ringing bells, and running away.
Now I must do my Mayingfor there will be no more sunshine
and I want to pick my flowers before it is dark. ComeMammy
you go too said Jill, as the last sunbeams shone in at the western
window where her hyacinths stood that no fostering ray might be
It was rather pathetic to see the once merry girl who used to be the
life of the wood-parties now carefully lifting herself from the
couch, and, leaning on her mother's strong arm, slowly take the
half-dozen steps that made up her little expedition. But she was
happy, and stood smiling out at old Bun skipping down the walk,
the gold-edged clouds that drew apart so that a sunbeam tiiight
give her a good-night kiss as she gathered her long-cherished
daisies, primroses, and hyacinths to fill the pretty basket in her
Who is it formy deane?" asked her motherstanding behind her
as a propwhile the thin fingers did their work so willingly that
not~a flower was left.
For My Lady, of course. Who else would I give my posies to,
when I love them so well?answered Jillwho thought no name
too fine for their best friend.
I fancied it would be for Master Jack,said her motherwishing
the excursion to be a cheerful one.
I've another for him, but she must have the prettiest. He is going
to hang it for me, and ring and run away, and she won't know who
it's from till she sees this. She will remember it, for I've been
turning and tending it ever so long, to make it bloom to-day. Isn't it
a beauty?and Jill held up her finest hyacinthwhich seemed to
ring its pale pink bells as if glad to carry its sweet message from a
grateful little heart.
Indeed it is; and you are right to give your best to her. Come away
now, you must not stand any longer. Come and rest while I fetch a
dish to put the flowers in till you want them; and Mrs. Pecq
turned her round with her small Maying safely done.
I didn't think I'd ever be able to do even so much, and here I am
walking and sitting up, and going to drive some day. Isn't it nice
that I'm not to be a poor Lucinda after all?and Jill drew a long
sigh of relief that six months instead of twenty years would
probably be the end of her captivity.
Yes, thank Heaven! I don't think I could have borne that; and
the mother took Jill in her arms as if she were a babyholding her
close for a minuteand laying her down with a tender kiss that
made the arms cling about her neck as her little girl returned it
heartilyfor all sorts of newsweet feelings seemed to be budding
in bothborn of great joy and thankfulness.
Then Mrs. Pecq hurried away to see about tea for the hungry boys
and Jill watched the pleasant twilight deepen as she lay singing to
herself one of the songs her friend taught her because it fitted her
A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there:
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleases Thee!
Naught have I else to do;
I sing the whole day long;
And He whom most I love to please
Doth listen to my song
He caught and bound my wandering wing
But still He bends to hear me sing."
Now we are ready for you, so bring on your flowers,said Molly
to the boysas she and Merry added their store of baskets to the
gay show Jill had set forth on the long table ready for the evening's
They wouldn't let me see one, but I guess they have had good
luck, they look so jolly,answered Jilllooking at GusFrankand
Jackwho stood laughingeach with a large basket in his hands.
Fair to middling. Just look in and see; with which cheerful
remark Gus tipped up his basket and displayed a few bits of green
at the bottom.
I'd id better. Now, don't all scream at once over these beauties;
and Frank shook out some evergreen sprigshalf a dozen
saxifragesand two or three forlorn violets with hardly any stems.
I don't brag, but here's the best of all the three,chuckled Jack
producing a bunch of feathery carrot-topswith a few half-shut
dandelions trying to look brave and gay.
Oh, boys, is that all?
What shall we do?
We've only a few house-flowers, and all those baskets to fill,
cried the girlsin despair; for Merry's contribution had been small
and Molly had only a handful of artificial flowers "to fill up she
It isn't our fault: it is the late spring. We can't make flowerscan
we?" asked Frankin a tone of calm resignation.
Couldn't you buy some, then?said Mollysmoothing her
crumpled morning-glorieswith a sigh.
'Who ever heard of a fellow having any money left the last day of
the month?" demanded Gusseverely.
Or girls either. I spent all mine in ribbon and paper for my
baskets, and now they are of no use. It's a shame!lamented Jill
while Merry began to thin out her full baskets to fill the empty
Hold on!cried Frankrelenting. "NowJackmake their minds
easy before they begin to weep and wail."
Left the box outside. You tell while I go for it; and Jack bolted
as if afraid the young ladies might be too demonstrative when the
tale was told.
Tell away,said Frankmodestly passing the story along to Gus
who made short work of it.
We rampaged all over the country, and got only that small mess
of greens. Knew you'd be disgusted, and sat down to see what we
could do. Then Jack piped up, and said he'd show us a place where
we could get a plenty. 'Come on,' said we, and after leading us a
nice tramp, he brought us out at Morse's greenhouse.
So we got a few on tick, as we had but four cents among us, and
there you are. Pretty clever of the little chap, wasn't it?
A chorus of delight greeted Jack as he popped his head inwas
promptly seized by his elders and walked up to the tablewhere the
box was openeddisplaying gay posies enough to fill most of the
baskets if distributed with great economy and much green.
You are the dearest boy that ever was!began Jillwith her nose
luxuriously buried in the boxthough the flowers were more
remarkable for color than perfume.
No, I'm not; there's a much dearer one coming upstairs now, and
he's got something that will make you howl for joy,said Jack
ignoring his own prowess as Ed came in with a bigger boxlooking
as if he had done nothing but go a Maying all his days.
Don't believe it!cried Jillhugging her own treasure jealously.
It's oniy another joke. I won't look,said Mollystill struggling to
make her cambric roses bloom again.
I know what it is! Oh, how sweet!added Merrysniffingas Ed
set the box before hersaying pleasantly
You shall see first, because you had faith.
Up went the coverand a whiff of the freshest fragrance regaled
the seven eager noses bent to inhale itas a general murmur of
pleasure greeted the nest of greatrosy mayflowers that lay before
The dear things, how lovely they are!and Merry looked as if
greeting her cousinsso blooming and sweet was her own face.
Molly pushed her dingy garlands awayashamed of such poor
attempts beside these perfect works of natureand Jill stretched
out her hand involuntarilyas she saidforgetting her exotics
Give me just one to smell of, it is so woodsy and delicious.
Here you are, plenty for all. Real Pilgrim Fathers, right from
Plymouth. One of our fellows lives there, and I told him to bring
me a good lot; so he did, and you can do what you like with them,
explained Edpassing round bunches and shaking the rest in a
mossy pile upon the table.
Ed always gets ahead of us in doing the right thing at the right
time. Hope you've got some first-class baskets ready for him,said
Gusrefreshing the Washingtonian nose with a pink blossom or
Not much danger of his being forgotten,answered Molly; and
everyone laughedfor Ed was much beloved by all the girlsand
his door-steps always bloomed like a flower-bed on May eve.
Now we must fly round and fill up. Come, boys, sort out the green
and hand us the flowers as we want them. Then we must direct
them, and, by the time that is done, you can go and leave them,
said Jillsetting all to work.
Ed must choose his baskets first. These are ours; but any of those
you can have; and Molly pointed to a detachment of gay baskets
set apart from those already partly filled.
Ed chose a blue oneand Merry filled it with the rosiest
may-flowersknowing that it was to hang on Mabel's door-handle.
The others did the sameand the pretty work went onwith much
funtill all were filledand ready for the names or notes.
Let us have poetry, as we can't get wild flowers. That will be
rather fine,proposed Jillwho liked jingles.
All had had some practice at the game partiesand pencils went
briskly for a few minuteswhile silence reignedas the poets
racked their brains for rhymesand stared at the blooming array
before them for inspiration.
Oh, dear! I can't find a word to rhyme to 'geranium,'sighed
Mollypulling her braidas if to pump the well of her fancy dry.
Cranium,said Frankwho was getting on bravely with "Annette"
That is elegant!and Molly scribbled away in great gleefor her
poems were always funny ones.
How do you spell anemoly--the wild flower, I mean?asked Jill
who was trying to compose a very appropriate piece for her best
basketand found it easier to feel love and gratitude than to put
them into verse.
Anemone; do spell it properly, or you'll get laughed at,answered
Guswildly struggling to make his lines express great ardor
without being "too spoony as he expressed it.
NoI shouldn't. This person never laughs at other persons'
mistakesas some persons do replied Jill, with dignity.
Jack was desperately chewing his pencil, for he could not get on at
all; but Ed had evidently prepared his poem, for his paper was half
full already, and Merry was smiling as she wrote a friendly line or
two for Ralph's basket, as she feared he would be forgotten, and
knew he loved kindness even more than he did beauty.
Now let's read them proposed Molly, who loved to laugh even at
The boys politely declined, and scrambled their notes into the
chosen baskets in great haste; but the girls were less bashful. Jill
was invited to begin, and gave her little piece, with the pink
hyacinth basket before her, to illustrate her poem.
TO MY LADY
There are no flowers in the fields,
No green leaves on the tree,
No columbines, no violets,
No sweet anemone.
So I have gathered from my pots
All that I have to fill
The basket that I hang to-night,
With heaps of love from Jill.
That's perfectly sweet! Mine isn't; but I meant it to be funny,said
Mollyas if there could be any doubt about the following ditty:
Here is a whiff
Of beautiful spring flowers;
The big red rose
Is for your nose,
As toward the sky it towers.
Ohdo noi frown
Upon this crown
Of green pinks and blue geranium
But think of me
When this you see
And put it on your cranium."
O Molly, you will never hear the last of that if Grif gets it,said
Jillas the applause subsidedfor the boys pronounced it "tip-top."
Don't care, he gets the worst of it anyway, for there is a pin in that
rose, and if he goes to smell the mayflowers underneath he will
find a thorn to pay for the tack he put in my rubber boot. I know he
will play me some joke to-night, and I mean to be first if I can,
answered Mollysettling the artificial wreath round the
orange-colored canoe which held her effusion.
Now, Merry, read yours: you always have sweet poems; and Jill
folded her hands to listen with pleasure to something sentimental.
I can't read the poems in some of mine, because they are for you;
but this little verse you can hear, if you like: I'm going to give that
basket to Ralph. He said he should hang one for his grandmother,
and I thought that was so nice of him, I'd love to surprise him with
one all to himself. He's always so good to us; and Merry looked so
innocently earnest that no one smiled at her kind thought or the
unconscious paraphrase she had made of a famous stanza in her
own "little verse."
To one who teaches me
The sweetness and the beauty
Of doing faithfully
And cheerfully my duty.
He will like that, and know who sent it, for none of us have pretty
pink paper but you, or write such an elegant hand,said Molly
admiring the delicate white basket shaped like a lilywith the
flowers inside and the note hidden among themall daintily tied up
with the palest blush-colored ribbon.
Well, that's no harm. He likes pretty things as much as I'd o, and I
made my basket like a flower because I gave him one of my callas,
he admired the shape so much; and Merry smiled as she
remembered how pleased Ralph looked as he went away carrying
the lovely thing.
I think it would be a good plan to hang some baskets on the doors
of other people who don't expect or often have any. I'll do it if you
can spare some of these, we have so many. Give me only one, and
let the others go to old Mrs. Tucker, and the little Irish girl who
has been sick so long, and lame Neddy, and Daddy Munson. It
would please and surprise them so. Will we?asked Edin that
persuasive voice of his.
All agreed at onceand several people were made very happy by a
bit of spring left at their doors by the May elves who haunted the
town that night playing all sorts of pranks. Such a twanging of
bells and rapping of knockers; such a scampering of feet in the
dark; such droll collisions as boys came racing round cornersor
girls ran into one another's arms as they crept up and down steps
on the sly; such laughingwhistlingflying about of flowers and
friendly feeling--it was almost a pity that May-day did not come
Molly got home lateand found that Grif had been before herafter
all; for she stumbled over a market-basket at her doorand on
taking it in found a mammoth nosegay of purple and white
cabbagesher favorite vegetable. Even Miss Bat laughed at the
funny sightand Molly resolved to get Ralph to carve her a
bouquet out of carrotsbeetsand turnips for next timeas Grif
would never think of that.
Merry ran up the garden-walk alonefor Frank left her at the gate
and was fumbling for the latch when she felt something hanging
there. Opening the door carefullyshe found it gay with offerings
from her mates; and among them was one long quiver-shaped
basket of birch barkwith something heavy under the green leaves
that lay at the top. Lifting thesea slender has-relief of a calla lily
in plaster appearedwith this couplet slipped into the blue cord by
which it was to hang:
That mercy you to others show
That Mercy Grant to me.
How lovely! and this one will never fade, but always be a
pleasure hanging there. Now, I really have something beautiful all
my own,said Merry to herself as she ran up to hang the pretty
thing on the dark wainscot of her roomwhere the graceful curve
of its pointed leaves and the depth of its white cup would be a joy
to her eyes as long as they lasted.
I wonder what that means,and Merry read over the lines again
while a soft color came into her cheeks and a little smile of girlish
pleasure began to dimple round her lips; for she was so romantic
this touch of sentiment showed her that her friendship was more
valued than she dreamed. But she only saidHow glad I am I
remembered him, and how surprised he will be to see mayflowers
in return for the lily.
He wasand worked away more happily and bravely for the
thought of the little friend whose eyes would daily fall on the
white flower which always reminded him of her.
Chapter 19 Good Templars
Hi there! Bell's rung! Get up, lazy-bones!called Frank from his
room as the clock struck six one bright morningand a great
creaking and stamping proclaimed that he was astir.
All right, I'm coming,responded a drowsy voiceand Jack turned
over as if to obey; but there the effort endedand he was off again
for growing lads are hard to rouseas many a mother knows to her
Frank made a beginning on his own toiletand then took a look at
his brotherfor the stillness was suspicious.
I thought so! He told me to wake him, and I guess this will do it;
andfilling his great sponge with waterFrank stalked into the next
room and stood over the unconscious victim like a stern
executionerglad to unite business with pleasure in this agreeable
A woman would have relented and tried some milder meansfor
when his broad shoulders and stout limbs were hiddenJack
looked very young and innocent in his sleep. Even Frank paused a
moment to look at the roundrosy facethe curly eyelashes
half-open mouthand the peaceful expression of a dreaming baby.
I must do it, or he won't be ready for breakfast,said the Spartan
brotherand down came the spongecoldwetand chokyas it
was briskly rubbed to and fro regardless of every obstacle.
Come, I say! That's not fair! Leave me alone!sputtered Jack
hitting out so vigorously that the sponge flew across the roomand
Frank fell back to laugh at the indignant sufferer.
I promised to wake you, and you believe in keeping promises, so
I'm doing my best to get you up.
Well, you needn't pour a quart of water down a fellow's neck, and
rub his nose off, need you? I'm awake, so take your old sponge and
go along,growled Jackwith one eye open and a mighty gape.
See that you keep so, then, or I'll come and give you another sort
of a rouser,said Frankretiring well-pleased with his success.
I shall have one good stretch, if I like. It is strengthening to the
muscles, and I'm as stiff as a board with all that football
yesterday,murmured Jacklying down for one delicious moment.
He shut the open eye to enjoy it thoroughlyand forgot the stretch
altogetherfor the bed was warmthe pillow softand a
half-finished dream still hung about his drowsy brain. Who does
not know the fatal charm of that stolen moment--for once yield to
itand one is lost.
Jack was miles away "in the twinkling of a bedpost and the
pleasing dream seemed about to return, when a ruthless hand tore
off the clothes, swept him out of bed, and he really did awake to
find himself standing in the middle of his bath-pan with both
windows open, and Frank about to pour a pail of water over him.
Hold on! Yahhow cold the water is! WhyI thought I was up";
andhopping outJack rubbed his eyes and looked about with such
a genuine surprise that Frank put down the pailfeeling that the
deluge would not be needed this time.
You are now, and I'll see that you keep so,he saidas he stripped
the bed and carried off the pillows.
I don't care. What a jolly day!and Jack took a little promenade
to finish the rousing process.
You'd better hurry up, or you won't get your chores done before
breakfast. No time for a go as you please now, said Frank; and
both boys laughed, for it was an old joke of theirs, and rather
Going up to bed one night expecting to find Jack asleep, Frank
discovered him tramping round and round the room airily attired in
a towel, and so dizzy with his brisk revolutions that as his brother
looked he tumbled over and lay panting like a fallen gladiator.
What on earth are you about?"
Playing Rowell. Walking for the belt, and I've got it too,laughed
Jackpointing to an old gilt chandelier chain hanging on the
You little noodle, you'd better revolve into bed before you lose
your head entirely. I never saw such a fellow for taking himself off
Well, if I didn't exercise, do you suppose I should be able to do
that--or that?cried Jackturning a somersault and striking a fine
attitude as he came upflattering himself that he was the model of
a youthful athlete.
You look more like a clothes-pin than a Hercules,was the
crushing reply of this unsympathetic brotherand Jack meekly
retired with a bad headache.
I don't do such silly things now: I'm as broad across the shoulders
as you are, and twice as strong on my pins, thanks to my
gymnastics. Bet you a cent I'll be dressed first, though you have got
the start,said Jackknowing that Frank always had a protracted
wrestle with his collar-buttonswhich gave his adversary a great
advantage over him.
Done!answered Frankand at it they went. A wild scramble was
heard in Jack's roomand a steady tramp in the other as Frank
worked away at the stiff collar and the unaccommodating button
till every finger ached. A clashing of boots followedwhile Jack
whistled "Polly Hopkins and Frank declaimed in his deepest
Arma virumque canoTrojae qui primus ab oris Italiamfato
profugusLaviniaque venit litora."
Hair-brushes came nextand here Frank got aheadfor Jack's thick
crop would stand straight up on the crownand only a good
wetting and a steady brush would make it lie down.
Play away, No. 2 called out frank as he put on his vest, while
Jack was still at it with a pair of the stiffest brushes procurable for
Hold hardNo. 11and don't forget your teeth answered Jack,
who had done his.
Frank took a hasty rub and whisked on his coat, while Jack was
picking up the various treasures which had flown out of his
pockets as he caught up his roundabout.
Ready! I'll trouble you for a centsonny"; and Frank held out his
hand as he appeared equipped for the day.
You haven't hung up your night-gown, nor aired the bed, nor
opened the windows. That's part of the dressing; mother said so.
I've got you there, for you did all that for me, except this,and Jack
threw his gown over a chair with a triumphant flourish as Frank
turned back to leave his room in the order which they had been
taught was one of the signs of a good bringing-up in boys as well
Ready! I'll trouble you for a cent, old man; and Jack held out his
handwith a chuckle.
He got the money and a good clap beside; then they retired to the
shed to black their bootsafter which Frank filled the woodboxes
and Jack split kindlingstill the daily allowance was ready. Both
went at their lessons for half an hourJack scowling over his
algebra in the sofa cornerwhile Frankwith his elbows on and his
legs round the little stand which held his booksseemed to be
having a wrestling-match with Herodotus.
When the bell rang they were glad to drop the lessons and fall
upon their breakfast with the appetite of wolvesespecially Jack
who sequestered oatmeal and milk with such rapidity that one
would have thought he had a leathern bag hidden somewhere to
slip it intolike his famous namesake when he breakfasted with the
I declare I don't see what he does with it! He really ought not to
'gobble' so, mother,said Frankwho was eating with great
deliberation and propriety.
Never you mind, old quiddle. I'm so hungry I could tuck away a
bushel,answered Jackemptying a glass of milk and holding out
his plate for more mushregardless of his white moustache.
Temperance in all things is wise, in speech as well as eating and
drinking--remember that, boys,said Mamma from behind the urn.
That reminds me! We promised to do the 'Observer' this week,
and here it is Tuesday and I haven't done a thing: have you?asked
Never thought of it. We must look up some bits at noon instead 0f
playing. Dare say Jill has got some: she always saves all she finds
I have one or two good items, and can do any copying there may
be. But I think if you undertake the paper you should give some
time and labor to make it good,said Mammawho was used to
this state of affairsand often edited the little sheet read every
week at the Lodge. The boys seldom missed goingbut the busy
lady was often unable to be thereso helped with the paper as her
share of the labor.
Yes, we ought, but somehow we don't seem to get up much steam
about it lately. If more people belonged, and we could have a
grand time now and then, it would be jolly; and Jack sighed
at the lack of interest felt by outsiders in the loyal little Lodge
which went on year after year kept up by the faithful few.
I remember when in this very town we used to have a Cold Water
Army, and in the summer turn out with processions, banners, and
bands of music to march about, and end with a picnic, songs, and
speeches in some grove or hall. Nearly all the children belonged to
it, and the parents also, and we had fine times here twenty-five or
thirty years ago.
It didn't do much good, seems to me, for people still drink, and
we haven't a decent hotel in the place,said Frankas his mother
sat looking out of the window as if she saw again the pleasant sight
of old and young working together against the great enemy of
home peace and safety.
Oh yes, it did, my dear; for to this day many of those children are
true to their pledge. One little girl was, I am sure, and now has two
big boys to fight for the reform she has upheld all her life. The
town is better than it was in those days, and if we each do our part
faithfully, it will improve yet more. Every boy and girl who joins is
one gained, perhaps, and your example is the best temperance
lecture you can give. Hold fast, and don't mind if it isn't 'jolly': it is
right, and that should be enough for us.
Mamma spoke warmlyfor she heartily believed in young people's
guarding against this dangerous vice before it became a
temptationand hoped her boys would never break the pledge they
had taken; foryoung as they werethey were old enough to see its
worthfeel its wisdomand pride themselves on the promise which
was fast growing into a principle. Jack's face brightened as he
listenedand Frank saidwith the steady look which made his face
It shall be. Now I'll tell you what I was going to keep as a surprise
till to-night, for I wanted to have my secret as well as other folks.
Ed and I went up to see Bob, Sunday, and he said he'd join the
Lodge, if they'd have him. I'm going to propose him to-night.
Good! good!cried Jackjoyfullyand Mrs. Minot clapped her
handsfor every new member was rejoiced over by the good
peoplewho were not discouraged by ridiculeindifferenceor
We've got him now, for no one will object, and it is just the thing
for him. He wants to belong somewhere, he says, and he'll enjoy
the fun, and the good things will help him, and we will look after
him, The Captain was so pleased, and you ought to have seen Ed's
face when Bob said, 'I'm ready, if you'll have me.
Frank's own face was beamingand Jack forgot to "gobble he was
so interested in the new Convert, while Mamma said, as she threw
down her napkin and took up the newspaper,
We must not forget our 'Observer' but have a good one tonight in
honor of the occasion. There may be something here. Come home
early at noonand I'll help you get your paper ready."
I'll be here, but if you want Frank, you'd better tell him not to
dawdle over Annette's gate half an hour,began Jackwho could
not resist teasing his dignified brother about one of the few foolish
things he was fond of doing.
Do you want your nose pulled?demanded Frankwho never
would stand joking on that tender point from his brother.
No, I don't; and if I did, you couldn't do it; with which taunt he
was off and Frank after himhaving made a futile dive at the
impertinent little nose which was turned up at him and his
Boys, boys, not through the parlor!implored Mammaresigned
to skirmishesbut trembling for her piano legs as the four stout
boots pranced about the table and then went thundering down the
hailthrough the kitchen where the fat cook cheered them onand
Marythe maidtried to head off Frank as Jack rushed out into the
garden. But the pursuer ducked under her arm and gave chase with
all speed. Then there was a glorious race all over the place; for
both were good runnersandbeing as full of spring vigor as frisky
calvesthey did astonishing things in the way of leaping fences
dodging round cornersand making good time down the wide
But Jack's leg was not quite strong yetand he felt that his round
nose was in danger of a vengeful tweak as his breath began to give
out and Frank's long arms drew nearer and nearer to the threatened
feature. Just when he was about to give up and meet his fate like a
manold Bunnywho had been much excited by the racecame
scampering across the path with such a droll skip into the air and
shake of the hind legs that Frank had to dodge to avoid stepping on
himand to laugh in spite of himself. This momentary check gave
Jack a chance to bolt up the back stairs and take refuge in the Bird
Roomfrom the window of which Jill had been watching the race
with great interest.
No romping was allowed thereso a truce was made by locking
little fingersand both sat down to get their breath.
I am to go on the piazza, for an hour, by and by, Doctor said.
Would you mind carrying me down before you go to school, you
do it so nicely, I'm not a bit afraid,said Jillas eager for the little
change as if it had been a long and varied journey.
Yes, indeed! Come on, Princess,answered Jackglad to see her
so well and happy.
The boys made an arm-chairand away she wentfor a pleasant
day downstairs. She thanked Frank with a posy for his buttonhole
well knowing that it would soon pass into other handsand he
departed to join Annette. Having told Jill about Boband set her to
work on the "Observer Jack kissed his mother, and went
whistling down the street, a gay little bachelor, with a nod and
smile for all he met, and no turned-up hat or jaunty turban bobbing
along beside him to delay his steps or trouble his peace of mind.
At noon they worked on their paper, which was a collection of
items, cut from other papers, concerning temperance, a few
anecdotes, a bit of poetry, a story, and, if possible, an original
article by the editor. Many hands make light work, and nothing
remained but a little copying, which Jill promised to do before
night. So the boys had time for a game of football after school in
the afternoon, which they much enjoyed. As they sat resting on the
posts, Gus said,
Uncle Fred says he will give us a hay-cart ride to-nightas it is
moonyand after it you are all to come to our house and have
Can't do it,answered Franksadly.
Lodge,groaned Jackfor both considered a drive in the cart
where they all sat in a merry bunch among the hayone of the joys
of lifeand much regretted that a prior engagement would prevent
their sharing in it.
That s a pity! I forgot it was Tuesdayand can'tput it offas I've
asked all the rest. Give up your old Lodge and come along said
Gus, who had not joined yet.
We might for onceperhapsbut I don't like to"--began Jack
I won't. Who's to propose Bob if we don't? I want to go awfully;
but I wouldn't disappoint Bob for a good deal, now he is willing to
come.And Frank sprang off his post as if anxious to flee
temptationfor it was very pleasant to go singingup hill and down
dalein the spring moonlightwith--wellthe fellows of his set.
Nor Ed, I forgot that. No, we can't go. We want to be Good
Templars, and we mustn't shirk,added Jackfollowing his
Better come. Can't put it off. Lots of fun,called Gus
disappointed at losing two of his favorite mates.
But the boys did not turn backand as they went steadily away they
felt that they were doing their little part in the good workand
making their small sacrificeslike faithful members.
They got their rewardhoweverfor at home they found Mr.
Chaunceya good and great manfrom Englandwho had known
their grandfatherand was an honored friend of the family. The
boys loved to hear him talkand all tea-time listened with interest
to the conversationfor Mr. Chauncey was a reformer as well as a
famous clergymanand it was like inspiring music to hear him tell
about the world's workand the brave men and women who were
carrying it on. Eager to show that they hadat leastbegunthe
boys told him about their Lodgeand were immensely pleased
when their guest took from his pocket-book a worn paperproving
that he too was a Good Templarand belonged to the same army as
they did. Nor was that allfor when they reluctantly excused
themselvesMr. Chauncey gave each a hearty "grip and said,
holding their hands in his, as he smiled at the young faces looking
up at him with so much love and honor in them,
Tell the brothers and Sisters that if I can serve them in anyway
while hereto command me. I will give them a lecture at their
Lodge or in publicwhichever they like; and I wish you God-speed
Two prouder lads never walked the streets than Frank and Jack as
they hurried awaynearly forgetting the poor little paper in their
haste to tell the good news; for it was seldom that such an offer
was made the Lodgeand they felt the honor done them as bearers
As the secrets of the association cannot be divulged to the
uninitiatedwe can only say that there was great rejoicing over the
new memberfor Bob was unanimously welcomedand much
gratitude both felt and expressed for Mr. Chauncey's interest in this
small division of the grand army; for these good folk met with
little sympathy from the great people of the townand it was very
cheering to have a well-known and much-beloved man say a word
for them. All agreed that the lecture should be publicthat others
might share the pleasure with themand perhaps be converted by a
higher eloquence than any they possessed.
So the services that night were unusually full of spirit and good
cheer; for all felt the influence of a friendly wordthe beauty of a
fine example. The paper was much applaudedthe songs were very
heartyand when Frankwhose turn it was to be chaplainread the
closing prayereveryone felt that they had much to give thanks for
since one more had joined themand the work was slowly getting
on with unexpected helpers sent to lend a hand. The lights shone
out from the little hall across the streetthe music reached the ears
of passers-byand the busy hum of voices up there told how
faithfully someat leastof the villagers tried to make the town a
safer place for their boys to grow up inthough the tavern still had
its private bar and the saloon-door stood open to invite them in.
There are many such quiet lodgesand in them many young people
learning as these lads were learning something of the duty they
owed their neighbors as well as themselvesand being fitted to
become good men and sober citizens by practising and preaching
the law and gospel of temperance.
The next night Mr. Chauncey lecturedand the town turned out to
hear the distinguishei manwho not only told them of the crime
and misery produced by this terrible vice which afflicted both
England and Americabut of the great crusade against it going on
everywhereand the need of couragepatiencehard workand
much faiththat in time it might be overcome. Strong and cheerful
words that all liked to hear and many heartily believedespecially
the young Templarswhose boyish fancies were won by the idea of
fighting as knights of old did in the famous crusades they read
about in their splendid new young folks' edition of Froissart.
We can't pitch into people as the Red Cross fellows did, but we
can smash rum-jugs when we get the chance, and stand by our flag
as our men did in the war,said Frankwith sparkling eyesas they
went home in the moonlight arm in armkeeping step behind Mr.
Chaunceywho led the way with their mother on his arma martial
figure though a ministerand a good captain to followas the boys
felt after hearing his stirring words.
Let's try and get up a company of boys like those mother told us
about, and show people that we mean what we say. I'll be
color-bearer, and you may drill us as much as you like. A real Cold
Water Army, with flags flying, and drums, and all sorts of larks,
said Jackmuch excitedand taking a dramatic view of the matter.
We'll see about it. Something ought to be done, and perhaps we
shall be the men to do it when the time comes,answered Frank
feeling ready to shoulder a musket or be a minute-man in good
Boyish talk and enthusiasmbut it was of the right sort; and when
time and training had fitted them to bear armsthese young knights
would be worthy to put on the red cross and ride away to help right
the wrongs and slay the dragons that afflict the world.
Chapter 20 A Sweet Memory
Now the lovely June days had comeeverything began to look
really summer-like; school would soon be overand the young
people were joyfully preparing for the long vacation.
We are all going up to Bethlehem. We take the seashore one year
and the mountains the next. Better come along,said Gusas the
boys lay on the grass after beating the Lincoins at one of the first
matches of the season.
Can't; we are off to Pebbly Beach the second week in July. Our
invalids need sea air. That one looks delicate, doesn't he?asked
Frankgiving Jack a slight rap with his bat as that young
gentleman lay in his usual attitude admiring the blue hose and
russet shoes which adorned his sturdy limbs.
Stop that, Captain! You needn't talk about invalids, when you
know mother says you are not to look at a book for a month
because you have studied yourself thin and headachy. I'm all
right; and Jack gave himself a sounding slap on the chestwhere
shone the white star of the H. B. B. C.
Hear the little cockerel crow! you just wait till you get into the
college class, and see if you don't have to study like fun,said Gus
with unruffled composurefor he was going to Harvard next year
and felt himself already a Senior.
Never shall; I don't want any of your old colleges. I'm going into
business as soon as I can. Ed says I may be his book-keeper, if I
am ready when he starts for himself. That is much jollier than
grinding away for four years, and then having to grind ever so
many more at a profession,said Jackexamining with interest the
various knocks and bruises with which much ball-playing had
adorned his hands.
Much you know about it. Just as well you don't mean to try, for it
would take a mighty long pull and strong pull to get you in.
Business would suit you better, and you and Ed would make a
capital partnership. Devlin, Minot, & Co. sounds well, hey, Gus?
Very, but they are such good-natured chaps, they'd never get rich.
By the way, Ed came home at noon today sick. I met him, and he
looked regularly knocked up,answered Gusin a sober tone.
I told him he'd better not go down Monday, for he wasn't well
Saturday, and couldn't come to sing Sunday evening, you
remember. I must go right round and see what the matter is; and
Jack jumped upwith an anxious face.
Let him alone till to-morrow. He won't want anyone fussing over
him now. We are going for a pull; come along and steer,said
Frankfor the sunset promised to be fineand the boys liked a
brisk row in their newly painted boatthe "Rhodora."
Go ahead and get ready, I'll just cut round and ask at the door, It
will seem kind, and I must know how Ed is. Won't be long; and
Jack was off at his best pace.
The others were waiting impatiently when he came back with
slower steps and a more anxious face.
How is the old fellow?called Frank from the boatwhile Gus
stood leaning on an oar in a nautical attitude.
Pretty sick. Had the doctor. May have a fever. I didn't go in, but
Ed Sent his love, and wanted to know who beat,answered Jack
stepping to his placeglad to rest and coo1 himself.
Guess he'll be all right in a day or two; and Gus pushed off
leaving all care behind.
Hope he won't have typhoid--that's no joke, I tell you,said Frank
who knew all about itand did not care to repeat the experience.
He's worked too hard. He's so faithful he does more than his
share, and gets tired out. Mother asked him to come down and see
us when he has his vacation; we are going to have high old times
fishing and boating. Up or down?asked Jackas they glided out
into the river.
Gus looked both waysand seeing another boat with a glimpse of
red in it just going round the bendansweredwith decisionUp,
of course. Don't we always pull to the bridge?
Not when the girls are going down,laughed Jackwho had
recognized Juliet's scarlet boating-suit as he glanced over his
Mind what you are about, and don't gabble,commanded Captain
Frankas the crew bent to their oars and the slender boat cut
through the water leaving a long furrow trembling behind.
Oh, ah! I see! There is a blue jacket as well as a red one, so it's all
Lady Queen Anneshe sits in the sun
As white as a lilyas brown as a bun
sung Jack, recovering his spirits, and wishing Jill was there too.
Do you want a ducking?" sternly demanded Gusanxious to
Shouldn'tmind, its so warm.
But Jack said no moreand soon the "Rhodora" was alongside the
Water Witch,exchanging greetings in the most amiable manner.
Pity this boat won't hold four. We'd put Jack in yours, and take
you girls a nice spin up to the Hemlocks,said Frankwhose idea
of bliss was floating down the river with Annette as coxswain.
You'd better come in here, this will hold four, and we are tired of
rowing,returned the "Water Witch so invitingly that Gus could
I don't think it is safe to put four in there. You'd better change
places with AnnetteGusand then we shall be ship-shape said
Frank, answering a telegram from the eyes that matched the blue
Wouldn't it be more ship-shape still if you put me ashore at Grif's
landing? I can take his boator wait till you come back. Don't care
what I'd o said Jack, feeling himself sadly in the way.
The good-natured offer being accepted with thanks, the changes
were made, and, leaving him behind, the two boats went gayly up
the river. He really did not care what he did, so sat in Grif's boat
awhile watching the red sky, the shining stream, and the low green
meadows, where the blackbirds were singing as if they too had met
their little sweethearts and were happy.
Jack remembered that quiet half-hour long afterward, because
what followed seemed to impress it on his memory. As he sat
enjoying the scene, he very naturally thought about Ed; for the face
of the sister whom he saw was very anxious, and the word fever"
recalled the hard times when Frank was illparticularly the night it
was thought the boy would not live till dawnand Jack cried
himself to sleepwondering how he ever could get on without his
brother. Ed was almost as dear to himand the thought that he was
suffering destroyed Jack's pleasure for a little while. But
fortunatelyyoung people do not know how to be anxious very
longso our boy soon cheered upthinking about the late match
between the Stars and the Lincoinsand after a good rest went
whistling homewith a handful of mint for Mrs. Pecqand played
games with Jill as merrily as if there was no such thing as care in
Next day Ed was worseand for a week the answer was the same
when Jack crept to the back door with his eager question.
Others came alsofor the dear boy lying upstairs had friends
everywhereand older neighbors thought of him even more
anxiously and tenderly than his mates. It was not feverbut some
swifter troublefor when Saturday night cameEd had gone home
to a longer and more peaceful Sabbath than any he had ever known
in this world.
Jack had been there in the afternoonand a kind message had
come down to him that his friend was not suffering so muchand
he had gone awayhopingin his boyish ignorancethat all danger
was over. An hour later he was reading in the parlorhaving no
heart for playwhen Frank came in with a look upon his face
which would have prepared Jack for the news if he had seen it. But
he did not look upand Frank found it so hard to speakthat he
lingered a moment at the pianoas he often did when he came
home. It stood openand on the rack was the "Jolly Brothers'
Galop which he had been learning to play with Ed. Big boy as he
was, the sudden thought that never again would they sit shoulder to
shoulder, thundering the marches or singing the songs both liked
so well, made his eyes fill as he laid away the music, and shut the
instrument, feeling as if he never wanted to touch it again. Then he
went and sat down beside Jack with an arm round his neck, trying
to steady his voice by a natural question before he told the heavy
What are you readingJacky?"
The unusual caressthe very gentle tonemade Jack look upand
the minute he saw Frank's face he knew the truth.
Is Ed----?he could not say the hard wordand Frank could only
answer by a nod as he winked fastfor the tears would come. Jack
said no morebut as the book dropped from his knee he hid his
face in the sofa-pillow and lay quite stillnot cryingbut trying to
make it seem true that his dear Ed had gone away for ever. He
could not do itand presently turned his head a little to sayin a
I don't see what I shall do without him!
I know it's hard for you. It is for all of us.
You've got Gus, but now I haven't anybody. Ed was always so
good to me!and with the name so many tender recollections
camethat poor Jack broke down in spite of his manful attempts to
smother the sobs in the red pillow.
There was an unconscious reproach in the wordsFrank thought;
for he was not as gentle as Edand he did not wonder that Jack
loved and mourned for the lost friend like a brother.
You've got me. I'll be good to you; cry if you want to, I don't
There was such a sympathetic choke in Frank's voice that Jack felt
comforted at once, and when he had had his cry out, which was
very soon, he let Frank pull him up with a bear-like but
affectionate hug, and sat leaning on him as they talked about their
loss, both feeling that there might have been a greater one, and
resolving to love one another very much hereafter.
Mrs. Minot often called Frank the father-boy because he was
now the head of the house, and a sober, reliable fellow for his
years. Usually he did not show much affection except to her, for,
as he once said, I shall never be too old to kiss my mother and
she often wished that he had a little sister, to bring out the softer
side of his character. He domineered over Jack and laughed at his
affectionate little ways, but now when trouble came, he was as
kind and patient as a girl; and when Mamma came in, having
heard the news, she found her father-boy" comforting his brother
so well that she slipped away without a wordleaving them to
learn one of the sweet lessons sorrow teaches--to lean on one
anotherand let each trial bring them closer together.
It is often said that there should be no death or grief in children's
stories. It is not wise to dwell on the dark and sad side of these
things; but they have also a bright and lovely sideand since even
the youngestdearestand most guarded child cannot escape some
knowledge of the great mysteryis it not well to teach them in
simplecheerful ways that affection sweetens sorrowand a lovely
life can make death beautiful? I think sotherefore try to tell the
last scene in the history of a boy who really lived and really left
behind him a memory so precious that it will not be soon forgotten
by those who knew and loved him. For the influence of this short
life was felt by manyand even this brief record of it may do for
other children what the reality did for those who still lay flowers
on his graveand try to be "as good as Eddy.
Few would have thought that the death of a quiet lad of seventeen
would have been so widely feltso sincerely mourned; but virtue
like sunshineworks its own sweet miraclesand when it was
known that never again would the bright face be seen in the village
streetsthe cheery voice heardthe loving heart felt in any of the
little acts which so endeared Ed Devlin to those about himit
seemed as if young and old grieved alike for so much promise cut
off in its spring-time. This was proved at the funeralforthough it
took place at the busy hour of a busy daymen left their affairs
women their householdsyoung people their studies and their play
and gave an hour to show their affectionrespectand sympathy for
those who had lost so much.
The girls had trimmed the church with all the sweetest flowers
they could findand garlands of lilies of the valley robbed the
casket of its mournful look. The boys had brought fresh boughs to
make the grave a green bed for their comrade's last sleep. Now
they were all gathered togetherand it was a touching sight to see
the rows of young faces sobered and saddened by their first look at
sorrow. The girls sobbedand the boys set their lips tightly as their
glances fell upon the lilies under which the familiar face lay full of
solemn peace. Tears dimmed older eyes when the hymn the dead
boy loved was sungand the pastor told with how much pride and
pleasure he had watched the gracious growth of this young
parishioner since he first met the lad of twelve and was attracted
by the shining facethe pleasant manners. Dutiful and loving;
ready to help; patient to bear and forbear; eager to excel; faithful
to the smallest taskyet full of high ambitions; andbetter still
possessing the childlike piety that can trust and believewait and
hope. Good and happy--the two things we all long for and so few
of us truly are. This he wasand this single fact was the best
eulogy his pastor could pronounce over the beloved youth gone to
a nobler manhood whose promise left so sweet a memory behind.
As the young people lookedlistenedand took in the scenethey
felt as if some mysterious power had changed their playmate from
a creature like themselves into a sort of saint or hero for them to
look up toand imitate if they could. 'What has he doneto be so
lovedpraisedand mourned?" they thoughtwith a tender sort of
wonder; and the answer seemed to come to them as never before
for never had they been brought so near the solemn truth of life
and death. "It was not what he did but what he was that made him
so beloved. All that was sweet and noble in him still lives; for
goodness is the only thing we can take with us when we diethe
only thing that can comfort those we leave behindand help us to
meet again hereafter."
This feeling was in many hearts when they went away to lay him
with prayer and musicunder the budding oak that leaned over his
gravea fit emblem of the young life just beginning its new spring.
As the children did their partthe beauty of the summer day
soothed their sorrowand something of the soft brightness of the
June sunshine seemed to gild their thoughtsas it gilded the
flower-strewn mound they left behind. The true and touching
words spoken cheered as well as impressed themand made them
feel that their friend was not lost but gone on into a higher class of
the great school whose Master is eternal love and wisdom. So the
tears soon driedand the young faces looked up like flowers after
rain. But the heaven-sent shower sank into the earthand they were
the strongerSweeter for itmore eager to make life brave and
beautifulbecause death had gently shown them what it should be.
When the boys came home they found their mother already
returnedand Jill upon the parlor sofa listening to her account of
the funeral with the same quiethopeful look which their own
faces wore; for somehow the sadness seemed to have goneand a
sort of Sunday peace remained.
I'm glad it was all so sweet and pleasant. Come and rest, you look
so tired; and Jill held out her hands to greet them--a crumpled
handkerchief in one and a little bunch of fading lilies in the other.
Jack sat down in the low chair beside her and leaned his head
against the arm of the sofafor he was tired. But Frank walked
slowly up and down the long rooms with a serious yet serene look
on his facefor he felt as if he had learned something that dayand
would always be the better for it. Presently he saidstopping
before his motherwho leaned in the easy-chair looking up at the
picture of her boys' father
I should should like to have just such things said about me when
So should I, if I deserved them as Ed did!cried Jackearnestly.
You may if you try. I should be proud to hear them, and if they
were true, they would comfort me more than anything else. I am
glad you see the lovely side of sorrow, and are learning the lesson
such losses teach us,answered their motherwho believed in
teaching young people to face trouble bravelyand find the silver
lining in the clouds that come to all of us.
I never thought much about it before, but now dying doesn't seem
dreadful at all--only solemn and beautiful. Somehow everybody
seems to love everybody else more for it, and try to be kind and
good and pious. I can't say what I mean, but you know, mother;
and Frank went pacing on again with the bright look his eyes
always wore when he listened to music or read of some noble
That's what Merry said when she and Molly came in on their way
home. But Molly felt dreadfully, and so did Mabel. She brought
me these flowers to press, for we are all going to keep some to
remember dear Ed by,said Jillcarefully smoothing out the little
bells as she laid the lilies in her hymn-bookfor she too had had a
thoughtful hour while she lay aloneimagining all that went on in
the churchand shedding a few tender tears over the friend who
was always so kind to her.
I don't want anything to remember him by. I was so fond of him, I
couldn't forget if I tried. I know I ought not to say it, but I don't see
why God let him die,said Jackwith a quiver in his voicefor his
loving heart could not help aching still.
No, dear, we cannot see or know many things that grieve us very
much, but we can trust that it is right, and try to believe that all is
meant for our good. That is what faith means, and without it we
are miserable. When you were little, you were afraid of the dark,
but if I spoke or touched you, then you were sure all was well, and
fell asleep holding my hand. God is wiser and stronger than any
father or mother, so hold fast to Him, and you will have no doubt
or fear, however dark it seems.
As you do,said Jackgoing to sit on the arm of Mamma's chair
with his cheek to herswilling to trust as she bade himhut glad to
hold fast the living hand that had led and comforted him all his
Ed used to say to me when I fretted about getting well, and
thought nobody cared for me, which was very naughty, 'Don't be
troubled, God won't forget you; and if you must be lame, He will
make you able to bear it,said Jillsoftlyher quick little mind all
alive with new thoughts and feelings.
He believed it, and that's why he liked that hymn so much. I'm
glad they sung it to-day,said Frankbringing his heavy dictionary
to lay on the book where the flowers were pressing.
Oh, thank you! Could you play that tune for me? I'd idn't hear it,
and I'd love to, if you are willing,asked Jill.
I'd idn't think I ever should want to play again, but I'd o. Will you
sing it for her, mother? I'm afraid I shall break down if I try alone.
We will all singmusic is good for us now said Mamma; and in
rather broken voices they did sing Ed's favorite words:
Not a sparrow falleth but its God cloth know
Just as when his mandate lays a monarch low;
Not a leaflet movethbut its God cloth see
Think notthenO mortalGod forgetteth thee.
Far more precious surely than the birds that fly
Is a Father's image to a Father's eye.
E'en thy hairs are numbered; trust Him full and free
Cast thy cares before HimHe will comfort thee;
For the God that planted in thy breast a soul
On his sacred tables dcth thy name enroll.
Cheer thine heartthenniortalnever faithless be
He that marks the sparrows will remember thee."
Chapter 21 Pebbly Beach
Now, Mr. Jack, it is a moral impossibility to get all those things
into one trunk, and you mustn't ask it of me,said Mrs. Pecqin a
tone of despairas she surveyed the heap of treasures she was
expected to pack for the boys.
Never mind the clothes, we only want a boating-suit apiece.
Mamma can put a few collars in her trunk for us; but these
necessary things must go,answered Jackadding his target and
air-pistol to the pile of batsfishing-tacklegamesand a choice
collection of shabby balls.
Those are the necessaries and clothes the luxuries, are they? Why
don't you add a velocipede, wheelbarrow, and printing-press, my
dear?asked Mrs. Pecqwhile Jill turned up her nose at "boys'
Wish I could. Dare say we shall want them. Women don't know
what fellows need, and always must put in a lot of stiff shirts and
clean handkerchiefs and clothes-brushes and pots of cold cream.
We are going to rough it, and don't want any fuss and feathers,
said Jackbeginning to pack the precious balls in his rubber boots
and strap them up with the umbrellasrodsand batsseeing that
there was no hope of a place in the trunk.
Here Frank came in with two big bookssaying calmlyJust slip
these in somewhere, we shall need them.
But you are not to study at all, so you won't want those great
dictionaries,cried Jillbusily packing her new travelling-basket
with all sorts of little rollsbagsand boxes.
They are not dics, but my Encyclopedia. We shall want to know
heaps of things, and this tells about everything. With those books,
and a microscope and a telescope, you could travel round the
world, and learn all you wanted to. Can't possibly get on without
them,said Frankfondly patting his favorite work.
My patience! What queer cattle boys are!exclaimed Mrs. Pecq
while they all laughed. "It can't be doneMr. Frank; all the boxes
are brim fulland you'll have to leave those fat books behindfor
there's no place anywhere."
Then I'll carry them myself; and Frank tucked one under each
armwith a determined airwhich settled the matter.
I suppose you'll study cockleology instead of boating, and read up
on polywogs while we play tennis, or go poking round with your
old spy-glass instead of having a jolly good time,said Jack
hauling away on the strap till all was taut and ship-shape with the
Tadpoles don't live in salt water, my son, and if you mean
conchology, you'd better say so. I shall play as much as I wish, and
when I want to know about any new or curious thing, I shall
consult my Cyclo, instead of bothering other people with
questions, or giving it up like a dunce; with which crushing reply
Frank departedleaving Jill to pack and unpack her treasures a
dozen timesand Jack to dance jigs on the lids of the trunks till
they would shut.
A very happy party set off the next dayleaving Mrs. Pecq waving
her apron on the steps. Mrs. Minot carried the lunchJack his
precious bundle with trifles dropping out by the wayand Jill felt
very elegant bearing her new basket with red worsted cherries
bobbing on the outside. Frank actually did take the Encyclopedia
done up in the roll of shawlsand whenever the others wondered
about anything--tideslighthousestownsor natural productions--
he brought forth one of the books and triumphantly read therefrom
to the great merrimentif not edificationof his party.
A very short trip by rail and the rest of the journey by boatto Jill's
great contentmentfor she hated to be shut up; and while the lads
roved here and there she sat under the awningtoo happy to talk.
But Mrs. Minot watched with real satisfaction how the fresh wind
blew the color back into the pale cheekshow the eyes shone and
the heart filled with delight at seeing the lovely world againand
being able to take a share in its active pleasures.
The Willows was a longlow house close to the beachand as full
as a beehive of pleasant peopleall intent on having a good time. A
great many children were swarming aboutand Jill found it
impossible to sleep after her journeythere was such a lively
clatter of tongues on the piazzasand so many feet going to and fro
in the hallsShe lay down obediently while Mrs. Minot settled
matters in the two airy rooms and gave her some dinnerbut she
kept popping up her head to look out of the window to see what
she could see. Just opposite stood an artist's cottage and studio
with all manner of charming galleriestowersstepsand even a
sort of drawbridge to pull up when the painter wished to be left in
peace. He was absent nowand the visitors took possession of this
fine play-place. Children were racing up and down the galleries
ladies sitting in the towerboys disporting themselves on the roof
and young gentlemen preparing for theatricals in the large studio.
What fun I'll have over there,thought Jillwatching the merry
scene with intense interestand wondering if the little girls she saw
were as nice as Molly and Merry.
Then there were glimpses of the sea beyond the green bank where
a path wound along to the beachwhence came the cool dash of
wavesand now and then the glimmer of a passing sail.
Oh, when can I go out? It looks so lovely, I can't wait long,she
saidlooking as eager as a little gull shut up in a cage and pining
for its home on the wide ocean.
As soon as it is a little cooler, dear, I'm getting ready for our trip,
but we must be careful and not do too much at once. 'Slow and
sure' is our motto,answered Mrs. Minotbusily collecting the
camp-stoolsthe shawlsthe air-cushionsand the big parasols.
I'll be good, only do let me have my sailor-hat to wear, and my
new suit. I'm not a bit tired, and I do want to be like other folks
right off,said Jillwho had been improving rapidly of lateand
felt much elated at being able to drive out nearly every dayto
walk a littleand sit up some hours without any pain or fatigue.
To gratify herthe blue flannel suit with its white trimming was
put onand Mamma was just buttoning the stout boots when Jack
thundered at the doorand burst in with all sorts of glorious news.
Do come out, mother, it's perfectly splendid on the beach! I've
found a nice place for Jill to sit, and it's only a step. Lots of capital
fellows here; one has a bicycle, and is going to teach us to ride. No
end of fun up at the hotel, and everyone seems glad to see us. Two
ladies asked about Jill, and one of the girls has got some shells all
ready for her, Gerty Somebody, and her mother is so pretty and
jolly, I like her ever so much. They sit at our table, and Wally is
the boy, younger than I am, but very pleasant. Bacon is the fellow
in knickerbockers; just wish you could see what stout legs he's got!
Cox is the chap for me, though: we are going fishing to-morrow.
He's got a sweet-looking mother, and a sister for you, Jill. Now,
then, do come on, I'll take the traps.
Off they wentand Jill thought that very short walk to the shore the
most delightful she ever took; for people smiled at the little invalid
as she went slowly by leaning on Mrs. Minot's armwhile Jack
pranced in frontdoing the honorsas if he owned the whole
Atlantic. A new world opened to her eyes as they came out upon
the pebbly beach full of people enjoying their afternoon
promenade. Jill save one rapturous Oh. and then sat on her stool
forgetting everything but the beautiful blue ocean rolling away to
meet the skywith nothing to break the wide expanse but a sail
here and therea point of rocks on one handthe little pier on the
otherand white gulls skimming by on their wide wings.
While she sat enjoying herselfJack showed his mother the place
he had foundand a very nice one it was. Just under the green bank
lay an old boat propped up with some big stones. A willow
drooped over itthe tide rippled up within a few yards of itand a
fine view of the waves could be seen as they'd ashed over the
rocks at the point.
Isn't it a good cubby-house? Ben Cox and I fixed it for Jill, and
she can have it for hers. Put her cushions and things there on the
sand the children have thrown in--that will make it soft; then these
seats will do for tables; and up in the bow I'm going to have that
old rusty tin boiler full of salt-water, so she can put seaweed and
crabs and all sorts 0c chaps in h for an aquatium, you know,
explained Jackgreatly interested in establishing his family
comfortably before he left them.
There couldn't be a nicer place, and it is very kind of you to get it
ready. Spread the shawls and settle Jill, then you needn't think of
us any more, but go and scramble with Frank. I see him over there
with his spy-glass and some pleasant-looking boys,said Mamma
bustling about in great spirits.
So the red cushions were placedthe plaids laidand the little
work-basket set upon the seatall ready for Jillwho was charmed
with her nestand cuddled down under the big parasoldeclaring
she would keep house there every day.
Even the old boiler pleased herand Jack raced over the beach to
begin his search for inhabitants for the new aquariumleaving Jill
to make friends with some pretty babies digging in the sandwhile
Mamma sat on the camp-stool and talked with a friend from
It seemed as if there could not be anything more delightful than to
lie there lulled by the sound of the seawatching the sunset and
listening to the pleasant babble of little voices close by. But when
thcy went to tea in the great hallwith six tables full of merry
peopleand half a dozen maids flying aboutJill thought that was
even betterbecause it was so new to her. Gerty and Wally nodded
to herand their pretty mamma was so kind and so gayrhat Jill
could not feel bashful after the first few minutesand soon looked
about hersure of seeing friendly faces everywhere. Frank and Jack
ate as if the salt air bad already improved their appetitesarid
talked about Bacon and Cox as if they had been bosom friends for
years. Mamma was as happy as they for her friendMrs.
Hammondsat close by; and this rosy ladywho had been a
physiciancheered her up by predicting that Jill would soon be
running about as well as ever.
But the best of all was in the eveningwhen the elder people
gathered in the parlors and played Twenty Questionswhile the
children looked on for an hour before going to bedmuch amused
at the sight of grown people laughingsquabblingdodgingand
joking as if they had all become young again; foras everyone
knowsit is impossible to help lively skirmishes when that game is
played. Jill lay in the sofa corner enjoying it all immensely; for she
never saw anything so drolland found it capital fun to help guess
the thingor try to puzzle the opposite side. Her quick wits and
bright face attracted peopleand in the pauses of the sport she held
quite a leveefor everybody was interested in the little invalid. The
girls shyly made friends in their own waythe mammas told
thrilling tales of the accidents their darlings had survivedseveral
gentlemen kindly offered their boatsand the boyswith the best
intentions in lifesuggested strolls of two or three miles to Rafe's
Chasm and Norman's Woeor invited her to tennis and archeryas
if violent exercise was the cure for all human ills. She was very
gratefuland reluctantly went away to beddeclaringwhen she got
upstairsthat these new friends were the dearest people she ever
metand the Willows the most delightful place in the whole world.
Next day a new life began for the young folks--a very healthy
happy life; and all threw themselves into it so heartilythat it was
impossible to help getting great good from itfor these summer
weeksif well spentwork miracles in tired bodies and souls.
Frank took a fancy to the bicycle boyandbeing able to hire one
of the breakneck articlessoon learned to ride it; and the two might
be seen wildly working their long legs on certain smooth stretches
of roador getting up their muscle rowing about the bay till they
were almost as brown and nautical in appearance and language as
the fishermen who lived in nooks and corners along the shore.
Jack struck up a great friendship with the sturdy Bacon and the
agreeable Cox: the latterbeing about his own agewas his
especial favorite; and they soon were called Box and Cox by the
other fellowswhich did not annoy them a bitas both had played
parts in that immortal farce. They had capital times fishing
scrambling over the rocksplaying ball and tennisand rainy days
they took possession of the studio oppositedrew up the portcullis
and gallantly defended the castlewhich some of the others
besieged with old umbrellas for shieldsbats for battering-rams
and bunches of burrs for cannon-balls. Great larks went on over
therewhile the girls applauded from the piazza or
chamber-windowsand made a gay flag for the victors to display
from the tower when the fight was over.
But Jill had the best time of allfor each day brought increasing
strength and spiritsand she improved so fast it was hard to believe
that she was the same girl who lay so long almost helpless in the
Bird Room at home. Such lively letters as she sent her W1o~he~
all aboul her new friendsher fine sailsdrivesand little walks;
the good times she had in the eveningthe lovely things people
gave herand she was learning to make with shells and sea-weed
and what splendid fun it was to keep house in a boat.
This last amusement soon grew quite absorbingand her "cubby
as she called it, rapidly became a pretty grotto, where she lived
like a little mermaid, daily loving more and more the beauty of the
wonderful sea, Finding the boat too sunny at times, the boys cut
long willow boughs and arched them over the seats, laying
hemlock branches across till a green roof made it cool and shady
inside. There Jill sat or lay among her cushions reading, trying to
sketch, sorting shells, drying gay sea-weeds, or watching her crabs,
jelly-fish, and anemones in the old boiler, now buried in sand and
edged about with moss from the woods.
Nobody disturbed her treasures, but kindly added to them, and
often when she went to her nest she found fruit or flowers, books
or bon-bons, laid ready for her. Everyone pitied and liked the
bright little girl who could not run and frisk with the rest, who was
so patient and cheerful after her long confinement, ready to help
others, and so grateful for any small favor. She found now that the
weary months had not been wasted, and was very happy to
discover in herself a new sort of strength and sweetness that was
not only a comfort to her, but made those about her love and trust
her. The songs she had learned attracted the babies, who would
leave their play to peep at her and listen when she sung over her
work. Passers-by paused to hear the blithe voice of the bird in the
green cage, and other invalids, strolling on the beach, would take
heart when they saw the child so happy in spite of her great trial.
The boys kept all their marine curiosities for her, and were always
ready to take her a row or a sail, as the bay was safe and that sort
of travelling suited her better than driving. But the girls had capital
times together, and it did Jill good to see another sort from those
she knew at home. She had been so much petted of late, that she
was getting rather vain of her small accomplishments, and being
with strangers richer, better bred and educated than herself, made
her more humble in some things, while it showed her the worth of
such virtues as she could honestly claim. Mamie Cox took her to
drive in the fine carriage of her mamma, and Jill was much
impressed by the fact that Mamie was not a bit proud about it, and
did not put on any airs, though she had a maid to take care of her.
Gerty wore pretty costumes, and came down with pink and blue
ribbons in her hair that Jill envied very much; yet Gerty liked her
curls, and longed to have some, while her mother, the lady from
Philadelphia as they called her, was so kind and gay that Jill
quite adored her, and always felt as if sunshine had come into the
room when she entered. Two little sisters were very interesting to
her, and made her long for one of her own when she saw them
going about together and heard them talk of their pleasant home,
where the great silk factories were. But they invited her to come
and see the wonderful cocoons, and taught her to knot pretty gray
fringe on a cushion, which delighted her, being so new and easy.
There were several other nice little lasses, and they all gathered
about Jill with the sweet sympathy children are so quick to show
toward those in pain or misfortune. She thought they would not
care for a poor little girl like herself, yet here she was the queen of
the troupe, and this discovery touched and pleased her very much.
In the morning they camped round the boat on the stones with
books, gay work, and merry chatter, till bathing-time. Then the
beach was full of life and fun, for everyone looked so droll in the
flannel suits, it was hard to believe that the neat ladies and
respectable gentlemen who went into the little houses could be the
same persons as the queer, short-skirted women with old hats tied
down, and bareheaded, barefooted men in old suits, who came
skipping over the sand to disport themselves in the sea in the most
undignified ways. The boys raced about, looking like circustumblers,
and the babies were regular little cupids, running away
from the waves that tried to kiss their flying feet.
Some of the young ladies and girls were famous swimmers, and
looked very pretty in their bright red and blue costumes, with loose
hair and gay stockings, as they'd anced into the water and floated
away as fearlessly as real mermaidens. Jill had her quiet dip and
good rubbing each fine day, and then lay upon the warm sand
watching the pranks of the others, and longing to run and dive and
shout and tumble with the rest. Now that she was among the well
and active, it seemed harder to be patient than when shut up and
unable to stir. She felt so much better, and had so little pain to
remind her of past troubles, it was almost impossible to help
forgetting the poor back and letting her recovered spirits run away
with her. If Mrs. Minot had not kept good watch, she would have
been off more than once, so eager was she to be like other girls"
againso difficult was it to keep the restless feet quietly folded
among the red cushions.
One day she did yield to temptationand took a little voyage which
might have been her lastowing to the carelessness of those whom
she trusted. It was a good lessonand made her as meek as a lamb
during the rest of her stay. Mrs. Minot drove to Gloucester one
afternoonleaving Jill safely established after her nap in the boat
with Gerty and Mamie making lace beside her.
Don't try to walk or run about, my dear. Sit on the piazza if you
get tired of this, and amuse yourself quietly till I come back. I'll
not forget the worsted and the canvas,said Mammapeeping over
the bank for a last word as she waited for the omnibus to come
Oh, don't forget the Gibraltars!cried Jillpopping her head out of
the green roof.
Nor the bananas, please!added Gertylooking round one end.
Nor the pink and blue ribbon to tie our shell-baskets,called
Mamienearly tumbling into the aquarium at the other end.
Mrs. Minot laughedand promisedand rumbled awayleaving Jill
to an experience which she never forgot.
For half an hour the little girls worked busilythen the boys came
for Gerty and Mamie to go to the Chasm with a party of friends
who were to leave next day. Off they wentand Jill felt very lonely
as the gay voices died away. Everyone had gone somewhereand
only little Harry Hammond and his maid were on the beach. Two
or three sand-pipers ran about among the pebblesand Jill envied
them their nimble legs so muchthat she could not resist getting up
to take a few steps. She longed to run straight away over the firm
smooth sandand feel again the delight of swift motion; but she
dared not try itand stood leaning on her tall parasol with her
book in her handwhen FrankJackand the bicycle boy came
rowing lazily along and hailed her.
Come for a sail, Jill? Take you anywhere you like,called Jack
touched by the lonely figure on the beach.
I'd love to go, if you will row. Mamma made me promise not to
go sailing without a man to take care of me. Would it spoil your
fun to have me?answered Jilleagerly.
Not a bit; come out on the big stones and we'll take you aboard,
said Frankas they steered to the place where she could embark the
All the rest are gone to the Chasm. I wanted to go, because I've
never seen it; but, of course, I had to give it up, as I do most of the
fun; and Jill sat down with an impatient sigh.
We'll row you round there. Can't land, but you can see the place
and shout to the others, if that will be any comfort to you,
proposed Frankas they pulled away round the pier.
Oh, yes, that would be lovely!and Jill smiled at Jackwho was
steeringfor she found it impossible to be dismal now with the
fresh wind blowing in her facethe blue waves slapping against the
boatand three good-natured lads ready to gratify her wishes.
Away they wentlaughing and talking gayly till they came to
Goodwin's Rockswhere an unusual number of people were to be
seen though the tide was going outand no white spray was
dashing high into the air to make a sight worth seeing.
'What do you suppose they are about? Never saw such a lot of
folks at this time. Shouldn't wonder if something had happened. I
sayput me ashoreand I'll cut up and see said the bicycle boy,
who was of an inquiring turn.
I'll go with you said Frank; it won't take but a minuteand I'd
like to discover what it is. Maybe something we ought to know
So the boys pulled round into a quiet nookand the two elder ones
scrambled up the rocksto disappear in the crowd. Fiveten
fifteen minutes passedand they did not return. Jack grew
impatientso did Jilland bade him run up and bring them back.
Glad to know what kept themJack departedto be swallowed up
in his turnfor not a sign of a boy did she see after that; and
having vainly strained her eyes to discover the attraction which
held themshe gave it uplay down on their jacketsand began to
Then the treacherous tideas it ebbed lower and lower down the
beachbegan to lure the boat away; for it was not fastenedand
when lightened of its load was an easy prize to the hungry sea
always ready to steal all it can. Jill knew nothing of thisfor her
story was dullthe gentle motion proved soothingand before she
knew it she was asleep. Little by little the runaway boat slid farther
from the shoreand presently was floating out to sea with its
drowsy freightwhile the careless boysunconscious of the time
they were wastinglingered to see group after group photographed
by the enterprising man who had trundled his camera to the rocks.
In the midst of a dream about homeJill was roused by a loud
shoutandstarting up so suddenly that the sun-umbrella went
overboardshe found herself sailing off alonewhile the distracted
lads roared and beckoned vainly from the cove. The oars lay at
their feetwhere they left them; and the poor child was quite
helplessfor she could not manage the sailand even the parasol
with which she might have paddled a littlehad gone down with all
sail set. For a minuteJill was so frightened that she could only
look about her with a scared faceand wonder if drowning was a
very disagreeable thing. Then the sight of the bicycle boy
struggling with Jackwho seemed inclined to swim after herand
Frank shouting wildlyHold on! Come back!made her laugh in
spite of her fearit was so comicaland their distress so much
greater than herssince it was their own carelessness which caused
I can't come back! There's nothing to hold on to! You didn't fasten
me, and now I don't know where I'm going!cried Jilllooking
from the shore to the treacherous sea that was gently carrying her
Keep cool! We'll get a boat and come after you,~ roared Frank,
before he followed Jack, who had collected his wits and was
tearing up the rocks like a chamois hunter.
The bicycle boy calmly sat down to keep his eye on the runaway,
calling out from time to time such cheering remarks as All aboard
for Liverpool! Give my love to Victoria! Luff and bear away when
you come to Halifax! If you are hard up for provisionsyou'll find
an apple and some bait in my coat-pocket and other directions for
a comfortable voyage, till his voice was lost in the distance as a
stronger current bore her swiftly away and the big waves began to
tumble and splash.
At first Jill had laughed at his efforts to keep up her spirits, but
when the boat floated round a point of rock that shut in the cove,
she felt all alone, and sat quite still, wondering what would
become of her. She turned her back to the sea and looked at the
dear, safe land, which never had seemed so green and beautiful
before. Up on the hill rustled the wood through which the happy
party were wandering to the Chasm. On the rocks she still saw the
crowd all busy with their own affairs, unconscious of her danger.
Here and there artists were sketching in picturesque spots, and in
one place an old gentleman sat fishing peacefully. Jill called and
waved her handkerchief, but he never looked up, and an ugly little
dog barked at her in what seemed to her a most cruel way.
Nobody sees or hears or caresand those horrid boys will never
catch up!" she cried in despairas the boat began to rock more and
moreand the loud swash of water dashing in and out of the
Chasm drew nearer and nearer. Holding on now with both hands
she turned and looked straight before herpale and shivering
while her eyes tried to see some sign of hope among the steep
cliffs that rose up on the left. No one was therethough usually at
this hour they were full of visitorsand it was time for the walkers
to have arrived.
I wonder if Gerty and Mamie will be sorry if I'm drowned,
thought Jillremembering the poor girl who had been lost in the
Chasm not long ago. Her lively fancy pictured the grief of her
friends at her loss; but that did not help or comfort her nowand as
her anxious gaze wandered along the shoreshe said aloudin a
Perhaps I shall be wrecked on Norman's Woe, and somebody will
make poetry about me. It would be pretty to read, but I don't want
to die that way. Oh, why did I come! Why didn't I stay safe and
comfortable in my own boat?
At the thought a sob roseand poor Jill laid her head down on her
lap to cry with all her heartfeeling very helplesssmalland
forsaken alone there on the great sea. In the midst of her tears
came the thoughtWhen people are in danger, they ask God to
save them; andslipping down upon her kneesshe said her prayer
as she had never said it beforefor when human help seems gone
we turn to Him as naturally as lost children cry to their fatherand
feel sure that he will hear and answer them.
After that she felt betterand wiped away the drops that blinded
herto look out again like a shipwrecked mariner watching for a
sail. And there it was! Close bycoming swiftly on with a man
behind ita sturdy brown fisherbusy with his lobster-potsand
quite unconscious how like an angel he looked to the helpless little
girl in the rudderless boat.
Hi! hi! Oh, please do stop and get me! I'm lost, no oars, nobody to
fix the sail! Oh, oh! please come!screamed Jillwaving her hat
frantically as the other boat skimmed by and the man stared at her
as if she really was a mermaid with a fishy tail.
Keep still! I'll come about and fetch you!he called out; and Jill
obeyedsitting like a little image of faithtill with a good deal of
shifting and flapping of the sailthe other boat came alongside and
took her in tow
A few words told the storyand in five minutes she was sitting
snugly tucked up watching art unpleasant mass of lobsters flap
about dangerously near her toeswhile the boat bounded over the
waves with a delightful motionand every instant brought her
nearer borne. She did not say muchbut felt a good deal; and when
they met two boats coming to meet hermanned by very anxious
crews of men and boysshe was so pale and quiet that Jack was
quite bowed down with remorseand Frank nearly pitched the
bicycle boy overboard because he gayly asked Jill how she left her
friends in England. There was great rejoicing over herfor the
people on the rocks had heard of her lossand ran about like ants
when their hill is disturbed. Of course half a dozen amiable souls
posted off to the Willows to tell the family that the little girl was
drownedso that when the rescuers appeared quite a crowd was
assembled on the beach to welcome her. But Jill felt so used up
with her own share of the excitement that she was glad to be
carried to the house by Frank and Jackand laid upon her bed
where Mrs. Hammond soon restored her with sugar-coated pills
and words even sweeter and more soothing.
Other peoplebusied with their own pleasuresforgot all about it
by the next day; but Jill remembered that hour long afterwardboth
awake and asleepfor her dreams were troubledand she often
started up imploring someone to save her. Then she would recall
the moment whenfeeling most helplessshe had asked for help
and it had come as quickly as if that tearful little cry had been
heard and answeredthough her voice had been drowned by the
dash of the waves that seemed ready to devour her. This made
a deep impression on herand a sense of childlike faith in the
Father of all began to grow up within her; for in that lonely
voyageshort as it wasshe had found a very precious treasure to
keep for everto lean onand to love during the longer voyage
which all must take before we reach our home.
Chapter 22 A Happy Day
Oh dear! Only a week more, and then we must go back. Don't you
hate the thoughts of it?said Jackas he was giving Jill her early
walk on the beach one August morning.
Yes, it will be dreadful to leave Gerty and Mamie and all the nice
people. But I'm so much better I won't have to be shut up again,
even if I don't go to school. How I long to see Merry and Molly.
Dear things, if it wasn't for them I should hate going home more
than you do,answered Jillstepping along quite brisklyand
finding it very hard to resist breaking into a skip or a runshe felt
so well and gay.
Wish they could be here to-day to see the fun,said Jackfor it
was the anniversary of the founding of the placeand the people
celebrated it by all sorts of festivity.
I'd id want to ask Molly, but your mother is so good to me I
couldn't find courage to do it. Mammy told me not to ask for a
thing, and I'm sure I don't get a chance. I feel just as if I was your
truly born sister, Jack.
That's all right, I'm glad you do,answered Jackcomfortably
though his mind seemed a little absent and his eyes twinkled when
she spoke of Molly. "Nowyou sit in the cubby-houseand keep
quiet till the boat comes in. Then the fun will beginand you must
be fresh and ready to enjoy it. Don't run offnowI shall want to
know where to find you by and by."
No more running off, thank you. I'll stay here till you come, and
finish this box for Molly; she has a birthday this week, and I've
written to ask what day, so I can send it right up and surprise her.
Jack's eyes twinkled more than ever as he helped Jill settle herself
in the boat, and then with a whoop he tore over the beach, as if
practising for the race which was to come off in the afternoon.
Jill was so busy with her work that time went quickly, and th~
early boat came in just as the last pink shell was stuck in its place.
Putting the box in the sun to dry, she leaned out of her nook to
watch the gay parties land, and go streaming up the pier along the
road that went behind the bank that sheltered her. Flocks of
children were running about on the sand, and presently strangers
appeared, eager to see and enjoy all the delights of this gala-day.
There's a fat little boy who looks ever so much like Boo said Jill
to herself, watching the people and hoping they would not come
and find her, since she had promised to stay till Jack returned.
The fat little boy was staring about him in a blissful sort of maze,
holding a wooden shovel in one hand and the skirts of a young girl
with the other. Her back was turned to Jill, but something in the
long brown braid with a fly-away blue bow hanging down her back
looked very familiar to Jill. So did the gray suit and the Japanese
umbrella; but the hat was strange, and while she was thinking how
natural the boots looked, the girl turned round.
Whyhow much she looks like Molly! It can't be--yesit mightI
do believe it is!" cried Jillstarting up and hardly daring to trust
her own eyes.
As she came out of her nest and showed herselfthere could be no
doubt about the other girlfor she gave one shout and came racing
over the beach with both arms outwhile her hat blew off
unheededand the gay umbrella flew awayto the great delight of
all the little people except Boowho was upset by his sister's
impetuous rushand lay upon his back howling. Molly did not do
all the runningthoughand Jill got her wishfornever stopping to
think of herselfshe was off at onceand met her friend half-way
with an answering cry. Jr was a pretty sight to see them run into
one another's arms and hug and kiss and talk and skip in such a
state of girlish joy they never cared who saw or laughed at their
You darling dear! where did you come from?cried Jillholding
Molly by both shouldersand shaking her a little to be sure she was
Mrs. Minot sent for us to spend a week. You look so well, I can't
believe my eyes!answered Mollypatting Jill's cheeks and kissing
them over and overas if to make sure the bright color would not
A week? How splendid! Oh, I've such heaps to tell and show you;
come right over to my cubby and see how lovely it is,said Jill
forgetting everybody else in her delight at getting Molly.
I must get poor Boo, and my hat and umbrella, I left them all
behind me when I saw you,laughed Mollylooking back.
But Mrs. Minot and Jack had consoled Boo and collected the
scattered propertyso the girls went on arm in armand had a fine
time before anyone had the heart to disturb them. Molly was
charmed with the boatand Jill very glad the box was done in
season. Both had so much to tell and hear and planthat they
would have sat there for ever if bathing-time had not comeand
the beach suddenly looked like a bed of red and yellow tulipsfor
everyone took a dipand the strangers added much to the fun.
Molly could swim like a duckand quite covered herself with glory
by diving off the pier. Jack undertook to teach Boowho was a
promising pupilbeing so plump that he could not sink if he tried.
Jill was soon throughand lay on the sand enjoying the antics of
the bathers till she was so faint with laughter she was glad to hear
the dinner-horn and do the honors of the Willows to Mollywhose
room was next hers.
Boat-races came first in the afternoonand the girls watched them
sitting luxuriously in the nestwith the ladies and children close
by. The sailing-matches were very pretty to see; but Molly and Jill
were more interested in the rowingfor Frank and the bicycle boy
pulled one boatand the friends felt that this one must win. It did
though the race was not very exciting nor the prize of great worth;
but the boys and girls were satisfiedand Jack was much exalted
for he always told Frank he could do great things if he would only
drop books and "go in on his muscle."
Foot-races followedandburning to distinguish himself alsoJack
insisted on tryingthough his mother warned him that the weak leg
might be harmedand he had his own doubts about itas he was all
out of practice. Howeverhe took his place with a handkerchief
tied round his headred shirt and stockingsand his sleeves rolled
up as if he meant business. Jill and Molly could not sit still during
this raceand stood on the bank quite trembling with excitement as
the half-dozen runners stood in a line at the starting-post waiting
for the word "Go!"
Off they went at last over the smooth beach to the pole with the
flag at the further endand cveryone watched them with mingled
interest and merrimentfor they were a droll setand the running
not at all scientific with most of them. One young fisherman with
big boots over his trousers started off at a great pacepounding
along in the most dogged waywhile a little chap in a tight
bathing-suit with very thin legs skimmed by himlooking so like a
sand-piper it was impossible to help laughing at both. Jack's
former training stood him in good stead now; for he went to work
in professional styleand kept a steady trot till the flagpole had
been passedthen he put on his speed and shot ahead of all the
restseveral of whom broke down and gave up. But Cox and
Bacon held on gallantly; and soon it was evident that the sturdy
legs in the knickerbockers were gaining fastfor Jack gave his
ankle an ugly wrench on a round pebbleand the weak knee began
to fail. He did his besthoweverand quite a breeze of enthusiasm
stirred the spectators as the three boys came down the course like
mettlesome horsespantingpaleor purplebut each bound to win
at any cost.
NowBacon! "Go itMinot! Hit him upCox! Jack's ahead!" "No
he isn't!" "Here they come!" "Bacon's done it!" shouted the other
boysand they were right; Bacon had wonfor the gray legs came
in just half a yard ahead of the red onesand Minot tumbled into
his brother's arms with hardly breath enough left to gasp out
good-humoredlyAll right, I'm glad he beat!
Then the victor was congratulated and borne off by his friends to
refresh himselfwhile the lookers-on scattered to see a game of
tennis and the shooting of the Archery Club up at the hotel. Jack
was soon restedandmaking light of his defeatinsisted on taking
the girls to see the fun. So they'd rove up in the old omnibusand
enjoyed the pretty sight very much; for the young ladies were in
uniformand the broad green ribbons over the white dressesthe
gay quiverslong bowsand big targetsmade a lively scene. The
shooting was good; a handsome damsel got the prize of a dozen
arrowsand everyone clapped in the most enthusiastic manner.
Molly and Jill did not care about tennisso they went home to rest
and dress for the eveningbecause to their minds the dancingthe
illuminationand the fireworks were the best fun of all. Jill's white
bunting with cherry ribbons was very becomingand the lively feet
in the new slippers patted the floor impatiently as the sound of
dance music came down to the Willows after teaand the other
girls waltzed on the wide piazza because they could not keep still.
No dancing for me, but Molly must have a good time. You'll see
that she does, won't you, boys?said Jillwho knew that her share
of the fun would be lying on a settee and watching the rest enjoy
her favorite pastime.
Frank and Jack promisedand kc~t their word handsomely; for
there was plenty of room in the great dancing-hall at the hoteland
the band in the pavilion played such inspiring music thatas the
bicycle boy saidEveryone who had a leg couldn't help shaking
it.Molly was twirled about to her heart's contentand flew hither
and thither like a blue butterfly; for all the lads liked herand she
kept running up to tell Jill the funny things they said and did.
As night darkened from all the houses in the valleyon the cliffs
and along the shore lights shone and sparkled; for everyone
decorated with gay lanternsand several yachts in the bay strung
colored lamps about the little vesselsmaking a pretty picture on
the quiet sea. Jill thought she had never seen anything so like
fairy-landand felt very like one in a dream as she drove slowly up
and down with MamieGertyMollyand Mrs. Cox in the carriage
so that she might see it all without too much fatigue. It was very
lovely; and when rockets began to whizzfilling the air with
golden raina shower of colored starsfiery dragonsor glittering
wheelsthe girls could only shriek with delightand beg to stay a
little longer each time the prudent lady proposed going home.
It had to be at last; but Molly and Jill comforted themselves by a
long talk in bedfor it was impossible to sleep with glares of light
coming every few minutesflocks of people talking and tramping
by in the roadand bursts of music floating down to them ~s thc
oldcr but not wiser revellers kept up the merriment till a late hour.
They'd ropped off at last; but Jill had the nightmareand Molly
was waked up by a violent jerking of her braid as Jill tried to tow
her alongdreaming she was a boat.
They were too sleepy to laugh much thenbut next morning they
made merry over itand went to breakfast with such happy faces
that all the young folks pronounced Jill's friend a most delightful
girl. What a good time Molly did have that week! Other people
were going to leave alsoand therefore much picnickingboating
and driving was crowded into the last days. Clambakes on the
shorecharades in the studiosewing-parties at the boatevening
frolics in the big dining-roomfarewell callsgiftsand Invitations
all Sorts of plans for next summerand vows of eternal friendship
exchanged between people who would soon forget each other. It
was very pleasanttill poor Boo innocently added to the
excitement by poisoning a few of his neighbors with a bad lobster.
The ambitious little soul pined to catch one of these mysterious
but lovely red creaturesand spent days fishing on the beach
investigating holes and cornersand tagging after the old man who
supplied the house. One day after a high wind he found several
lobswashed up on the beachandthough disappointed at their
colorhe picked out a big oneand set off to show his prize to
Molly. Half-way home he met the old man on his way with a
basket of fishand being tired of lugging his contribution laid it
with the othersmeaning to explain later. No one saw him do itas
the old man was busy with his pipe; and Boo ran back to get more
dear lobsleaving his treasure to go into the kettle and appear at
supperby which time he had forgotten all about it.
Fortunately none of the children ate anybut several older people
were made illand quite a panic prevailed that night as one after
the other called up the doctorwho was boarding close by; and
good Mrs. Greythe hostessran about with hot flannelsbottles of
medicineand distracted messages from room to room. All were
comfortable by morningbut the friends of the sufferers lay in wait
for the old fishermanand gave him a good scolding for his
carelessness. The poor man was protesting his innocence when
Boowho was passing bylooked into the basketand asked what
had become of his lob. A few questions brought the truth to light
and a general laugh put everyone in good humorwhen poor Boo
mildly saidby way of explanation
I fought I was helpin' Mrs. Dray, and I'd id want to see the dreen
lob come out all red when she boiled him. But I fordot, and I don't
fink I'll ever find such a nice big one any more.
For our sakes, I hope you won't, my dear,said Mrs. Hammond
who had been nursing one of the sufferers.
It's lucky we are going home to-morrow, or that child would be
the death of himself and everybody else. He is perfectly crazy
about fish, and I've pulled him out of that old lobster-pot on the
beach a dozen times,groaned Mollymuch afflicted by the
mishaps of her young charge.
There was a great breaking up next dayand the old omnibus went
off to the station with Bacon hanging on behindthe bicycle boy
and his iron whirligig atopand heads popping out of all the
windows for last good-byes. Our party and the Hammonds were
going by boatand were all ready to start for the pier when Boo
and little Harry were missing. Mollythe maidand both boys ran
different ways to find them; and all sorts of dreadful suggestions
were being made when shouts of laughter were heard from the
beachand the truants appearedproudly dragging in Harry's little
wagon a dead devil-fishas the natives call that ugly thing which
looks like a magnified tadpole--all head and no body.
We've dot him!called the innocentstugging up their prize with
such solemn satisfaction it was impossible to help laughing.
I always wanted to tatch a whale, and this is a baby one, I fink. A
boy said, when they wanted to die they corned on the sand and did
it, and we saw this one go dead just now. Ain't lie pretty?asked
Boodisplaying the immense mouth with fond pridewhile his
friend flapped the tail.
What are you going to do with him?said Mrs. Hammond
regarding her infant as if she often asked herself the same question
about her boy.
Wap him up in a paper and tate him home to pay wid,answered
Harrywith such confidence in his big blue eyes that it was very
hard to disappoint his hopes and tell him the treasure must be left
Wails of despair burst from both children as the hard-hearted boys
tipped out the little whaleand hustled the indignant fishermen on
board the boatwhich had been whistling for them impatiently.
Boo recovered his spirits firstand gulping down a sob that nearly
shook his hat offconsoled his companion in affliction and
convulsed his friends by taking from his pocket several little crabs
the remains of a jelly-fishand such a collection of pebbles that
Frank understood why he found the fat boy such a burden when he
shouldered himkicking and howlingin the late run to the boat.
These delicate toys healed the wounds of Boo and Harryand they
were soon happily walking the little "trabs" about inside a stone
wall of their own buildingwhile the others rested after their
exertionsand laid plans for coming to the Willows another year
as people usually did who had once tasted the wholesome delights
and cordial hospitality of this charming place.
Chapter 23 Cattle Show
The children were not the oniy ones who had learned something at
Pebbly Beach. Mrs. Minot bad talked a good deal with some very
superior personsand received light upon various subjects which
had much interested or perplexed her. While the ladies worked or
walked togetherthey naturally spoke oftenest and most earnestly
about their childrenand each contributed her experience. Mrs.
Hammondwho had been a physician for many yearswas wise in
the care of healthy little bodiesand the cure of sick ones. Mrs.
Channingwho had readtravelledand observed much in the
cause of educationhad many useful hints about the training of
young minds and hearts. Several teachers reported their trialsand
all the mothers were eager to know how to bring up their boys and
girls to be healthyhappyuseful men and women.
As young people do not care for such discussionswe will not
describe thembut as the impression they made upon one of the
mammas affected our hero and heroinewe must mention the
changes which took place in their life when they all got home
School begins to-morrow. Oh, dear!sighed Jackas he looked up
his books in the Bird Rooma day or two after their return.
Don't you want to go? I long to, but don't believe I shall. I saw our
mothers talking to the doctor last night, but I haven't dared to ask
what they'd ecided,said Jillaffectionately eying the long-unused
books in her little library.
I've had such a jolly good time, that I hate to be shut up all day
worse than ever, Don't you, Frank?asked Jackwith a vengeful
slap at the arithmetic which was the torment of his life.
Well, I confess I don't hanker for school as much as I expected.
I'd rather take a spin on the old bicycle. Our roads are so good, it is
a great temptation to hire a machine, and astonish the natives.
That's what comes of idleness. So brace up, my boy, and go to
work, for vacation is over,answered Frankgravely regarding the
tall pile of books before himas if trying to welcome his old
friendsor tyrantsratherfor they ruled him with a rod of iron
when he once gave himself up to them.
Ah, but vacation is not over, my dears,said Mrs. Minothearing
the last words as she came in prepared to surprise her family.
Glad of it. How much longer is it to be?asked Jackhoping for a
week at least.
Two or three years for some of you.
What?cried all threein utter astonishmentas they stared at
Mammawho could not help smilingthough she was very much in
For the next two or three years I intend to cultivate my boys'
bodies, and let their minds rest a good deal, from books at least.
There is plenty to learn outside of school-houses, and I don't mean
to shut you up just when you most need all the air and exercise you
can get. Good health, good principles, and a good education are
the three blessings I ask for you, and I am going to make sure of
the first, as a firm foundation for the other two.
But, mother, what becomes of college?asked Frankrather
disturbed at this change of base.
Put it off for a year, and see if you are not better fitted for it then
But I am already fitted: I've worked like a tiger all this year, and
I'm sure I shall pass.
Ready in one way, but not in another. That hard work is no
preparation for four years of still harder study. It has cost you these
round shoulders, many a headache, and consumed hours when you
had far better have been on the river or in the fields. I cannot have
you break down, as so many boys do, or pull through at the cost of
ill-health afterward. Eighteen is young enough to begin the steady
grind, if you have a strong constitution to keep pace with the eager
mind. Sixteen is too young to send even my good boy out into the
world, just when he most needs his mother's care to help him be
the man she hopes to see him.
Mrs. Minot laid her hand on his shoulder as she spokelooking so
fond and proud that it was impossible to rebelthough some of his
most cherished plans were spoilt.
Other fellows go at my age, and I was rather pleased to be ready
at sixteen,he began. But she addedquickly
They go, but how do they come out? Many lose health of body,
and many what is more precious still, moral strength, because too
young and ignorant to withstand temptations of all sorts. The best
part of education does not come from books, and the good
principles I value more than either of the other things are to be
carefully watched over till firmly fixed; then you may face the
world, and come to no real harm. Trust me, dear, I do it for your
sake; so bear the disappointment bravely, and in the end I think
you will say I'm right.
I'll do my best; but I don't see what is to become of us if we don't
go to school. You will get tired of it first,said Franktrying to set
a good example to the otherswho were looking much impressed
No danger of that, for I never sent my children to school to get rid
of them, and now that they are old enough to be companions, I
want them at home more than ever. There are to be some lessons,
however, for busy minds must be fed, but not crammed; so you
boys will go and recite at certain hours such things as seem most
important. But there is to be no studying at night, no shutting up all
the best hours of the day, no hurry and fret of getting on fast, or
skimming over the surface of many studies without learning any
So I say!cried Jackpleased with the new ideafor he never did
love books. "I do hate to be driven so I don't half understand
because there is no time to have things explained. School is good
fun as far as play goes; but I don't see the sense of making a fellow
learn eighty questions in geography one dayand forget them the
What is to become of me, please?asked Jillmeekly.
You and Molly are to have lessons here. I was a teacher when I
was young, you know, and liked it, so I shall be school-ma'am, and
leave my house-keeping in better hands than mine. I always
thought that mothers should teach their girls during these years,
and vary their studies to suit the growing creatures as only mothers
That will be splendid! Will Molly's father let her come?" cried
Jillfeeling quite reconciled to staying at homeif her friend was
to be with her.
He likes the plan very much, for Molly is growing fast, and needs
a sort of care that Miss Dawes cannot give her. I am not a hard
mistress, and I hope you will find my school a pleasant one.
I know I shall; and I'm not disappointed, because I was pretty sure
I couldn't go to the old school again, when I heard the doctor say I
must be very careful for a long time. I thought he meant months;
but if it must he years, I can bear it, for I've been happy this last
one though I was sick,said Jillglad to show that it had not been
wasted time by being cheerful and patient now.
That's my good girl!and Mrs. Minot stroked the curly black head
as if it was her own little daughter's. "You have done so wellI
want you to go on improvingfor care now will save you pain and
disappointment by and by. You all have got a capital start during
these six weeksso it is a good time to begin my experiment. If it
does not work wellwe will go back to school and college next
Hurrah for Mamma and the long vacation!cried Jackcatching
up two big books and whirling them round like clubsas if to get
his muscles in order at once.
Now I shall have time to go to the Gymnasium and straighten out
my back,said Frankwho was growing so tall he needed more
breadth to make his height symmetrical.
And to ride horscback. I am going to hire old Jane and get out the
little phaeton, so we can all enjoy the fine weather while it lasts.
Molly and I can drive Jill, and you can take turns in the saddle
when you are tired of ball and boating. Exercise of all sorts is one
of the lessons we are to learn,said Mrs. Minotsuggesting all the
pleasant things she could to sweeten the pill for her pupilstwo of
whom did love their booksnot being old enough to know that
even an excellent thing may be overdone.
Won't that be gay? I'll get down the saddle to-day, so we can
begin right off. Lem rides, and we can go together. Hope old Jane
will like it as well as I shall,said Jackwho had found a new
friend in a pleasant lad lately come to town.
You must see that she does, for you boys are to take care of her.
We will put the barn in order, and you can decide which shall be
hostler and which gardener, for I don't intend to hire labor on the
place any more. Our estate is not a large one, and it will be
excellent work for you, my men.
All right! I'll see to Jane. I love horses,said Jackwell pleased
with the prospect.
My horse won't need much care. I prefer a bicycle to a beast, so
I'll get in the squashes, pick the apples, and cover the strawberry
bed when it is time,added Frankwho had enjoyed the free life at
Pebbly Beach so much that he was willing to prolong it.
You may put me in a hen-coop, and keep me there a year, if you
like. I won't fret, for I'm sure you know what is best for me,said
Jillgaylyas she looked up at the good friend who had done so
much for her.
I'm not sure that I won't put you in a pretty cage and send you to
Cattle Show, as a sample of what we can do in the way of taming a
wild bird till it is nearly as meek as a dove,answered Mrs. Minot
much gratified at the amiability of her flock.
I don't see why there should not be an exhibition of children, and
prizes for the good and pretty ones, as well as for fat pigs, fine
horses, or handsome fruit and flowers--I don't mean a baby show,
but boys and girls, so people can see what the prospect is of a good
crop for the next generation,said Frankglancing toward the
tower of the building where the yearly Agricultural Fair was soon
to be held.
Years ago, there was a pretty custom here of collecting all the
schools together in the spring, and having a festival at the Town
Hall. Each school showed its best pupils, and the parents looked
on at the blooming flower show. It was a pity it was ever given up,
for the schools have never been so good as then, nor the interest in
them so great; and Mrs. Minot wonderedas many people dowhy
farmers seem to care more for their cattle and crops than for their
childrenwillingly spending large sums on big barns and costly
experimentswhile the school-houses are shabby and inconvenient
and the cheapest teachers preferred.
Ralph is going to send my bust. He asked if he might, and mother
said Yes. Mr. German thinks it very good, and I hope other people
will,said Jillnodding toward the little plaster head that smiled
down from its bracket with her own merry look.
I could send my model; it is nearly done. Ralph told me it was a
clever piece of work, and he knows,added Frankquite taken
with the idea of exhibiting his skill in mechanics.
And I could send my star bedquilt! They always have things of
that kind at Cattle Show; and Jill began to rummage in the closet
for the pride of her heartburning to display it to an admiring
I haven't got anything. Can't sew rags together; or make baby
engines, and I have no live-stock--yes, I have too! There's old Bun.
I'll send him, for the fun of it; he really is a curiosity, for he is the
biggest one I ever saw, and hopping into the lime has made his fur
such a queer color, he looks like a new sort of rabbit. I'll catch and
shut him up before he gets wild again; and off rushed Jack to lure
unsus Fectins old Bunwho had grown tame during their absence
into the cage which he detested.
They all laughed at his ardorbut the fancy pleased them; and as
Mamma saw no reason why their little works of art should not be
sentFrank fell to work on his modeland Jill resolved to finish
her quilt at oncewhile Mrs. Minot went off to see Mr. Acton
about the hours and studies for the boys.
In a week or twothe young people were almost resigned to the
loss of schoolfor they found themselves delightfully fresh for the
few lessons they did haveand not weary of playsince it took
many useful forms. Old Jane not only carried them all to ridebut
gave Jack plenty of work keeping her premises in nice order. Frank
mourned privately over the delay of collegebut found a solace in
his whirligig and the Gymnasiumwhere he set himself to
developing a chest to match the big head abovewhich head no
longer ached with eight or ten hours of study. Harvesting beans
and raking up leaves seemed to have a soothing effect upon his
nervesfor now he fell asleep at once instead of thumping his
pillow with vexation because his brain would go on working at
difficult problems and passages when he wanted it to stop.
Jill and Molly drove away in the little phaeton every fair morning
over the sunny hills and through the changing woodsfilling their
hands with asters and golden-rodtheir lungs with the pure
invigorating airand their heads with all manner of sweet and
happy fancies and feelings born of the wholesome influences ahout
themPeople 5hook their headsand said it was wasting time; but
the rosy-faced girls were Content to trust those wiser than
themselvesand found their new school very pleasant. They read
aloud a good dealrapidly acquiring one of the rarest and most
beautiful accomplishments; for they could stop and ask questions
as they went alongso that they understood what they readwhich
is half the secret. A thousand things came up as they sewed
together in the afternoonand the eager minds received much
general information in an easy and well-ordered way. Physiology
was one of the favorite studiesand Mrs. Hammond often came in
to give them a little lectureteaching them to understand the
wonders of their own systemsand how to keep them in order-- a
lesson of far more importance just then than Greek or Latinfor
girls are the future mothersnursesteachersof the raceand
should feel how much depends on them. Merry could not resist the
attractions of the friendly circleand soon persuaded her mother to
let her do as they did; so she got more exercise and less study
which was just what the delicate girl needed.
The first of the new ideas seemed to prosperand the second
though suggested in jokewas carried out in earnestfor the other
young people were seized with a strong desire to send something
to the Fair. In factall sorts of queer articles were proposedand
much fun prevailedespecially among the boyswho ransacked
their gardens for mammoth vegetablessighed for five-legged
calvesblue rosesor any other natural curiosity by means of which
they might distinguish themselves. Ralph was the only one who
had anything really worth sending; for though Franks model
seemed quite perfectit obstinately refused to goand at the last
moment blew up with a report like a pop-gun. So it was laid away
for repairsand its disappointed maker devoted his energies to
helping Jack keep Bun in order; for that indomitable animal got
out of every prison they put him inand led Jack a dreadful life
during that last week. At all hours of the day and night that
distracted boy would start upcryingThere he is again!and dart
out to give chase and capture the villain now grown too fat to run
as he once did.
The very night before the FairFrank was wakened by a chilly
draughtandgetting up to see where it came fromfound Jack's
door open and bed emptywhile the vision of a white ghost flitting
about the garden suggested a midnight rush after old Bun. Frank
watched laughinglytill poor Jack came toward the house with the
gentleman in gray kicking lustily in his armsand then whispered
in a sepulchral tone
Put him in the old refrigerator, he can't get out of that,
Blessing him for the suggestionthe exhausted hunter shut up his
victim in the new celland found it a safe onefor Bun could not
burrow through a sheet of zincor climb up the smooth walls. Jill's
quilt was a very elaborate piece of workbeing bright blue with
little white stars all over it; this she finished nicelyand felt sure
no patient old lady could outdo it. Merry decided to send butter
for she had been helping her mother in the dairy that summerand
rather liked the light part of the labor. She knew it would please
her very much if she chose that instead of wild Bowersso she
practised moulding the yellow pats into pretty shapesthat it might
please both eye and taste.
Molly declared she would have a little penand put Boo in itas
the prize fat boy--a threat which so alarmed the innocent that he
ran awayani was ~ouncl two or three miles prom borneasleep
under the wallwith two seed-cakes and a pair of socks done up in
a bundle. Being with difficulty convinced that it was a jokehe
consented to return to his familybut was evidently suspicioustill
Molly decided to send her catsand set about preparing them for
exhibition. The Minots' deserted Bunny-house was rather large; but
as cats cannot be packed as closely as much-enduring sheepMolly
borrowed this desirable family mansionand put her darlings into
itwhere they soon settled downand appeared to enjoy their new
residence. It had been scrubbed up and painted redcushions and
plates put inand two American flags adorned the roof. Being
barred all rounda fine view of the Happy Family could be had
now twelve in numberas Molasses had lately added three white
kits to the varied collection.
The girls thought this would be the most interesting spectacle of
alland Grif proposed to give some of the cats extra tailsto
increase their charmsespecially poor Mortificationwho would
appreciate the honor of twoafter having none for so long. But
Molly declinedand Grif looked about him for some attractive
animal to exhibitso that he too might go in free and come to
A young lady in the town owned a donkeya smallgray beast
who insisted on tripping along the sidewalks and bumping her
rider against the walls as she paused to browse at her own sweet
willregardless of blows or criestill ready to move on. Expressing
great admiration for this rare animalGrif obtained leave to display
the charms of Graciosa at the Fair. Little did she guess the dark
designs entertained against her dignityand happily she was not as
sensitive to ridicule as a less humble-minded animalso she went
willingly with her new friendand enjoyed the combing and
trimming up which she received at his handswhile he prepared
for the great occasion.
When the morning of September 28th arrivedthe town was all
astirand the Fair ground a lively scene. The air was full of the
lowing of cattlethe tramp of horsessquealing of indignant pigs
and clatter of tonguesas people and animals streamed in at the
great gate and found their proper places. Our young folks were in a
high state of excitementas they rumbled away with their treasures
in a hay-cart. The Bunny-house might have been a cage of tigers
so rampant were the cats at this new move. Old Bunin a small
boxbrooded over the insult of the refrigeratorand looked as
fierce as a rabbit could. Gus had a coop of rare fowlswho clucked
wildly all the waywhile Ralphwith the bust in his armsstood up
in frontand Jill and Molly bore the precious bedquiltas they sat
These objects of interest were soon arrangedand the girls went to
admire Merry's golden butter cups among the green leavesunder
which lay the ice that kept the pretty flowers fresh. The boys were
down belowwhere the cackling was very loudbut not loud
enough to drown the sonorous bray which suddenly startled them
as much as it did the horses outside. A shout of laughter followed
and away went the ladsto see what the fun waswhile the girls
ran out on the balconyas someone saidIt's that rogue of a Grif
with some new joke.
It certainly wasandto judge from the peals of merrimentthe
joke was a good one. In at the gate came a two-headed donkey
ridden by Grifin great spirits at his successfor the gate-keeper
laughed so he never thought to ask for toll. A train of boys
followed him across the groundlost in admiration of the animal
and the cleverness of her rider. Among the stage properties of the
Dramatic Club was the old ass's head once used in some tableaux
from "Midsummer Night's Dream." This Grif had mended upand
fastened by means of straps and a collar to poor Graciosa's neck
hiding ~ work with a red cloth over her back. One eye was gone
but the other still opened and shutand the long ears wagged by
means of stringswhich he slyly managed with the bridleso the
artificial head looked almost as natural as the real one. The
funniest thing of all was the innocent air of Graciosaand the
mildly inquiring expression with which she now and then turned to
look at or to smell of the new ornament as if she recognized a
friend's faceyet was perplexed by its want of animation. She
vented her feelings in a braywhich Grif imitatedconvulsing all
hearers by the sound as well as by the wink the one eye gaveand
the droll waggle of one erect earwhile the other pointed straight
The girls laughed so at the ridiculous sight that they nearly fell
over the railingand the boys were in ecstasiesespecially when
Grifemboldened by his successtrotted briskly round the
race-coursefollowed by the cheers of the crowd. Excited by the
noiseGraciosa did her besttill the false headloosened by the
rapid motionslipped round under her nosecausing her to stop so
suddenly that Grif flew offalighting on his own head with a
violence which would have killed any other boy. Sobered by his
downfallhe declined to mount againbut led his steed to repose in
a shedwhile he rejoined his friendswho were waiting impatiently
to congratulate him on his latest and best prank.
The Committee went their rounds soon afterandwhen the doors
were again openedeveryone hurried to see if their articles had
received a premium. A card lay on the butter cupsand Mrs. Grant
was full of pride because her butter always took a prizeand this
proved that Merry was walking in her mother's stepsin this
direction at least. Another card swung from the blue quiltfor the
kindly judges knew who made itand were glad to please the little
girlthough several others as curious but not so pretty hung near
by. The cats were admiredbutas they were not among the
animals usually exhibitedthere was no prize awarded. Gus hoped
his hens would get one; hut somebody else outdid himto the great
indignation of Laura and Lottywho had fed the white biddies
faithfully for months. Jack was sure his rabbit was the biggest
thereand went eagerly to look for his premium. But neither card
nor Bun were to be seenfor the old rascal had escaped for the last
timeand was never seen again; which was a great comfort to Jack
who was heartily tired of him.
Ralph's bust was the best of allfor not only did it get a prizeand
was much admiredbut a ladywho found Jill and Merry rejoicing
over itwas so pleased with the truth and grace of the little head
that she asked about the artistand whether he would do one of her
own childwho was so delicate she feared he might not live long.
Merry gladly told the story of her ambitious friendand went to
find himthat he might secure the order. While she was goneJill
took up the talegratefully telling how kind he had been to her
how patiently he worked and waitedand how much he longed to
go abroad. Fortunately the lady was rich and generousas well as
fond of artand being pleased with the bustand interested in the
young sculptorgave him the order wher~ he cameand filled his
soul with joy by addingthatif it suited her when doneit should
be put into marble. She lived in the cityand Ralph soon arranged
his work so that he could give up his noon hourand go to model
the child; for every penny he could earn or save now was very
preciousas he still hoped to go abroad.
The girls were so delighted with this good fortunethat they did
not stay for the racesbut went home to tell the happy news
leaving the boys to care for the catsand enjoy the various matches
to come off that day.
I'm so glad I tried to look pleasant when I was lying on the board
while Ralph did my head, for the pleasantness got into the clay
face, and that made the lady like it,said Jillas she lay resting on
I always thought it was a dear, bright little face, but now I love
and admire it more than ever,cried Merrykissing it gratefullyas
she remembered the help and pleasure it had given Ralph.
Chapter 24 Down the River
A fortnight laterthe boys were picking apples one golden October
afternoonand the girls were hurrying to finish their workthat
they might go and help the harvesters. It was six weeks now Since
the new school beganand they had learned to like it very much
though they found that it was not all playby any means. But
lessonsexerciseand various sorts of housework made an
agreeable changeand they felt that they were learning things
which would be useful to them all their lives. They had been
making underclothes for themselvesand each had several neatly
finished garments cutfittedand sewed by herselfand trimmed
with the pretty tatting Jill made in such quantities while she lay on
Now they were completing new dressing sacksand had enjoyed
this job very muchas each chose her own materialand suited her
own taste in the making. Jill's was whitewith tiny scarlet leaves
all over ittrimmed with red braid and buttons so like
checkerberries she was tempted to eat them. Molly's was gaywith
bouquets of every sort of flowerscalloped all roundand adorned
with six buttonseach of a different colorwhich she thought the
last touch of elegance. Merry'sthough the simplestwas the
daintiest of the threebeing pale bluetrimmed with delicate
edgingand beautifully made.
Mrs. Minot had been reading from Miss Strickland's "Queens of
England" while the girls workedand an illustrated Sliakspeare lay
open on the tableas well as several fine photographs of historical
places for them to look at as they went along. The hour was over
nowthe teacher goneand the pupils setting the last stitches as
they talked over the lessonwhich had interested them
I really believe I have got Henry's six wives into my head right at
last. Two Annes, three Katherines, and one Jane. Now I've seen
where they lived and heard their stories, I quite feel as if I knew
them,said Merryshaking the threads off her work before she
folded it up to carry home.
King Henry the Eighth to six spouses was wedded,
One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded,'
was all I knew about them before. Poor things, what a bad time
they did have,added Jillpatting down the red braidwhich would
pucker a bit at the corners.
Katherine Parr had the best of it, because she outlived the old
tyrant and so kept her head on,said Mollywinding the thread
round her last buttonas if bound to fasten it on so firmly that
nothing should decapitate that.
I used to think I'd like to be a queen or a great lady, and wear
velvet and jewels, and live in a palace, but now I don't care much
for that sort of splendor. I like to make things pretty at home, and
know that they all depend on me, and love me very much. Queens
arc not happy, and I am,said Merrypausing to look at Anne
Hathaway's cottage as she put up the pictureand to wonder if it
was very pleasant to have a famous man for one's husband.
I guess your missionarying has done you good; mine has, and I'm
getting to have things my own way more and more every day. Miss
Bat is so amiable, I hardly know her, and father tells her to ask
Miss Molly when she goes to him for orders. Isn't that fun?
laughed Mollyin high gleeat the agreeable change. "I like it ever
so muchbut I don't want to stay so all my days. I mean to travel
and just as soon as I can I shall take Boo and go all round the
worldand see everything she added, waving her gay sack, as if it
were the flag she was about to nail to the masthead of her ship.
WellI should like to be famous in some wayand have people
admire me very much. I'd like to actor danceor singor be what I
heard the ladies at Pebbly Beach call a 'queen of society.' But I
don't expect to be anythingand I'm not going to worry I shall not
be a Lucindaso I ought to be contented and happy all my life
said Jill, who was very ambitious in spite of the newly acquired
meekness, which was all the more becoming because her natural
liveliness often broke out like sunshine through a veil of light
If the three girls could have looked forward ten years they would
have been surprised to see how different a fate was theirs from the
one each had chosen, and how happy each was in the place she
was called to fill. Merry was not making the old farmhouse pretty,
but living in Italy, with a young sculptor for her husband, and
beauty such as she never dreamed of all about her. Molly was not
travelling round the world, but contentedly keeping house for her
father and still watching over Boo, who was becoming her pride
and joy as well as care. Neither was Jill a famous woman, but a
very happy and useful one, with the two mothers leaning on her as
they grew old, the young men better for her influence over them,
many friends to love and honor her, and a charming home, where
she was queen by right of her cheery spirit, grateful heart, and
unfailing devotion to those who had made her what she was.
If any curious reader, not content with this peep into futurity, asks,
Did Molly and Jill ever marry?" we must replyfor the sake of
peace--Molly remained a merry spinster all her daysone of the
independentbraveand busy creatures of whom there is such need
in the world to help take care of other peoples' wives and children
and do the many useful jobs that the married folk have no time for.
Jill certainly did wear a white veil on the day she was twenty-five
and called her husband Jack. Further than that we cannot go
except to say that this leap did not end in a catastrophelike the
first one they took together.
That dayhoweverthey never dreamed of what was in store for
thembut chattered away as they cleared up the roomand then ran
off ready for playfeeling that they had earned it by work well
done. They found the lads just finishingwith Boo to help by
picking up the windfalls for the cider-heapafter he had amused
himself by putting about a bushel down the various holes old Bun
had left behind him. Jack was risking his neck climbing in the
most dangerous placeswhile Frankwith a long-handled
apple-pickernipped off the finest fruit with careboth enjoying
the pleasant task and feeling proud of the handsome red and
yellow piles all about the little orchard. Merry and Molly caught
up baskets and fell to work with all their mightleaving Jill to sit
upon a stool and sort the early apples ready to use at oncelooking
up now and then to nod and smile at her mother who watched her
from the windowrejoicing to see her lass so well and happy.
It was such a lovely daythey all felt its cheerful influence; for the
sun shone bright and warmthe air was full of an invigorating
freshness which soon made the girls' faces look like rosy apples
and their spirits as gay as if they had been stealing sips of new
cider through a straw. Jack whistled like a blackbird as he swung
and bumped aboutFrank orated and jokedMerry and Molly ran
races to see who would fill and empty fastestand Jill sung to Boo
who reposed in a barrelexhausted with his labors.
These are the last of the pleasant days, and we ought to make the
most of them. Let's have one more picnic before the frost spoils the
leaves,said Merryresting a minute at the gate to look down the
streetwhich was a glorified sort of avenuewith brilliant maples
lining the way and carpeting the ground with crimson and gold.
Oh, yes! Go down the river once more and have supper on the
Island. I couldn't go to some of your picnics, and I do long for a
last good time before winter shuts me up again,cried Jilleager to
harvest all the sunshine she couldfor she was not yet quite her old
I'm your man, if the other fellows agree. We can't barrel these up
for a while, so to-morrow will be a holiday for us. Better make
sure of the day while you can, this weather can't last long; and
Frank shook his head like one on intimate terms with Old Prob.
Don't worry about those high ones, Jack. Give a shake and come
down and plan about the party,called Mollythrowing up a big
Baldwin with what seemed a remarkably good aimfor a shower of
apples followedand a boy came tumbling earthward to catch on
the lowest bough and swing down like a caterpillarexclaimingas
I'm glad that job is done! I've rasped every knuckle I've got and
worn out the knees of my pants. Nice little crop though, isn't it?
It will be nicer if this young man does not bite every apple he
touches. Hi there! Stop it, Boo,commanded Frankas he caught
his young assistant putting his small teeth into the best onesto see
if they were sweet or sour.
Molly set the barrel up on endand that took the boy out of the
reach of mischiefso he retired from view and peeped through a
crack as he ate his fifth pearmainregardless of consequences.
Gus will be at home to-morrow. He always comes up early on
Saturday, you know. We can't get on without him,said Frank
who missed his mate very muchfor Gus had entered collegeand
so far did not like it as much as he had expected.
Or Ralph; he is very busy every spare minute on the little boy's
bust, which is getting on nicely, he says; but he will be able to
come home in time for supper, I think,added Merry
remembering the absentas usual.
I'll ask the girls on my way home, and all meet at two o'clock for
a good row while it's warm. What shall I bring?asked Molly
wondering if Miss Bat's amiability would extend to making
goodies in the midst of her usual Saturday's baking.
You bring coffee and the big pot and some buttered crackers. I'll
see to the pie and cake, and the other girls can have anything else
they like,answered Merryglad and proud that she could provide
the party with her own inviting handiwork.
I'll take my zither, so we can have music as we sail, and Grif will
bring his violin, and Ralph can imitate a banjo so that you'd be
sure he had one. I do hope it will be fine, it is so splendid to go
round like other folks and enjoy myself,cried Jillwith a little
bounce of satisfaction at the prospect of a row and ramble.
Come along, then, and make sure of the girls,said Merry
catching up her roll of workfor the harvesting was done.
Molly put her sack on as the easiest way of carrying itand
extricating Boothey went offaccompanied by the boysto make
sure of the fellowsalsoleaving Jill to sit among the apples
singing and sorting like a thrifty little housewife.
Next day eleven young people met at the appointed placebasket
in hand. Ralph could not come till laterfor he was working now
as he never worked before. They were a merry flockfor the
mellow autumn day was even brighter and clearer than yesterday
and the river looked its loveliestwinding away under the sombre
hemlocksor through the fairyland the gay woods made on either
side. Two large boats and two small ones held them alland away
they wentfirst up through the three bridges and round the bend
thenturningthey floated down to the green islandwhere a grove
of oaks rustled their sere leaves and the squirrels were still
gathering acorns. Here they often met to keep their summer revels
and here they now spread their feast on the flat rock which needed
no cloth beside its own gray lichens. The girls trimmed each dish
with bright leavesand made the supper look like a banquet for the
elveswhile the boys built a fire in the nook where ashes and
blackened stones told of many a rustic meal. The big tin coffee-pot
was not so romanticbut more successful than a kettle slung on
three sticksgypsy fashion; so they did not risk a downfallbut set
the water boilingand soon filled the air with the agreeable
perfume associated in their minds with picnicsas most of them
never tasted the fascinating stuff at any other timebeing the worst
children can drink.
Frank was cookGus helped cut bread and cakeJack and Grif
brought woodwhile Bob Walker took Joe's place and made
himself generally usefulas the other gentleman never didand so
was quite out of favor lately.
All was ready at lastand they were just deciding to sit down
without Ralphwhen a shout told them he was comingand down
the river skimmed a wherry at such a rate the boys wondered
whom he had been racing with.
Something has happened, and he is coming to tell us,said Jill
who sat where she could see his eager face.
Nothing bad, or he wouldn't smile so. He is glad of a good row
and a little fun after working so hard all the week; and Merry
shook a red napkin as a welcoming signal.
Something certainly had happenedand a very happy something it
must bethey all thoughtas Ralph came on with flashing oarsand
leaping out as the boat touched the shoreran up the slopewaving
his hatand calling in a glad voicesure of sympathy in his delight
Good news! good news! Hurrah for Rome, next month!
The young folks forgot their supper for a momentto congratulate
him on his happy prospectand hear all about itwhile the leaves
rustled as if echoing the kind wordsand the squirrels sat up aloft
wondering what all the pleasant clamor was about.
YesI'm really going in November. German asked me to go with
him to-dayand if there is any little hitch in my getting offhe'll
lend a handand I--I'll black his bootswet his clayand run his
errands the rest of my life to pay for this!" cried Ralphin a burst
of gratitude; forindependent as he wasthe kindness of this
successful friend to a deserving comrade touched and won his
I call that a handsome thing to do!said Frankwarmlyfor noble
actions always pleased him. "I heard my mother say that making
good or useful men was the best sort of sculptureso I think David
German may be proud of this piece of workwhether the big statue
succeeds or not."
I'm very glad, old fellow, When I run over for my trip four years
from now, I'll look you up, and see how you are getting on,said
Guswith a hearty shake of the hand; and the younger lads grinned
cheerfullyeven while they wondered where the fun was in
shaping clay and chipping marble.
Shall you stay four years?asked Merry's soft voicewhile a
wistful look came into her happy eyes.
Ten, if I can,answered Ralphdecidedlyfeeling as if a long
lifetime would be all too short for the immortal work he meant to
do. "I've got so much to learnthat I shall do whatever David
thinks best for me at firstand when I can go aloneI shall just shut
myself up and forget that there is any world outside my den."
Do write and tell us how you get on now and then; I like to hear
about other people's good times while I'm waiting for my own,
said Mollytoo much interested to observe that Grif was sticking
burrs up and down her braids.
Of course I shall write to some of you, but you mustn't expect any
great things for years yet. People don't grow famous in a hurry, and
it takes a deal of hard work even to earn your bread and butter, as
you'll find if you ever try it,answered Ralphsobering down a
little as he remembered the long and steady effort it had taken to
get even so far.
Speaking of bread and butter reminds me that we'd better eat ours
before the coffee gets quite cold,said Annettefor Merry seemed
to have forgotten that she had been chosen to play matronas she
was the oldest.
The boys seconded the motionand for a few minutes supper was
the all-absorbing topicas the cups went round and the goodies
vanished rapidlyaccompanied by the usual mishaps which make
picnic meals such fun. Ralph's health was drunk with all sorts of
good wishes; and such splendid prophecies were madethat he
would have far surpassed Michael Angeloif they could have come
true. Grif gave him an order on the spot for a full-length statue of
himselfand stood up to show the imposing attitude in which he
wished to be takenbut unfortunately slipped and fell forward with
one hand in the custard piethe other clutching wildly at the
coffee-potwhich inhospitably burnt his fingers.
I think I grasp the idea, and will be sure to remember not to make
your hair blow one way and the tails of your coat another, as a
certain sculptor made those of a famous man,laughed Ralphas
the fallen hero scrambled upamidst general merriment.
Will the little bust be done before you go?asked Jillanxiously
feeling a personal interest in the success of that order.
Yes: I've been hard at it every spare minute I could get, and have a
fortnight more. It suits Mrs. Lennox, and she will pay well for it,
so I shall have something to start with, though I haven't been able
to save much. I'm to thank you for that, and I shall send you the
first pretty thing I get hold of,answered Ralphlooking gratefully
at the bright facewhich grew still brighter as Jill exclaimed
I do feel so proud to know a real artist, and have my bust done by
him. I only wish I could pay for it as Mrs. Lennox does; but I
haven't any money, and you don't need the sort of things I can
make,she addedshaking her headas she thought over knit
slipperswall-pocketsand crochet in all its formsas offerings to
her departing friend.
You can write often, and tell me all about everybody, for I shall
want to know, and people will soon forget me when I'm gone,
said Ralphlookir~g at Merrywho was making a garland of
yellow leaves for Juliet's black hair.
Jill promisedand kept her word; but the longest letters went from
the farm-house on the hillthough no one knew the fact till long
afterward. Merry said nothing nowbut she smiledwith a pretty
color in her cheeksand was very much absorbed in her work
while the talk went on.
I wish I was twenty, and going to seek my fortune, as you are,
said Jack; and the other boys agreed with himfor something in
Ralph's new plans and purposes roused the manly spirit in all of
themreminding them that playtime would soon be overand the
great world before themwhere to choose.
It is easy enough to say what you'd like; but the trouble is, you
have to take what you can get, and make the best of it,said Gus
whose own views were rather vague as yet.
No you don't, always; you can make things go as you want them,
if you only try hard enough, and walk right over whatever stands in
the way. I don't mean to give up my plans for any man; but, if I
live, I'll carry them out--you see if I don't; and Frank gave the
rock where he lay a blow with his fistthat sent the acorns flying
One of them hit Jackand he saidsorrowfullyas he held it in his
hand so carefully it was evident he had some association with it
Ed used to say that, and he had some splendid plans, but they
didn't come to anything.
Perhaps they did; who can tell? Do your best while you live, and I
don't believe anything good is lost, whether we have it a long or a
short time,said Ralphwho knew what a help and comfort high
hopes wereand how they led to better thingsif worthily
A great many acorns are wasted, I suppose; but some of them
sprout and grow, and make splendid trees,added Merryfeeling
more than she knew how to expressas she looked up at the oaks
Only seven of the party were sitting on the knoll nowfor the rest
had gone to wash the dishes and pack the baskets down by the
boats. Jack and Jillwith the three elder boyswere in a little
groupand as Merry spokeGus said to Frank
Did you plant yours?
Yes, on the lawn, and I mean it shall come up if I can make it,
I put mine where I can see it from the window, and not forget to
water and take care of it,added Jackstill turning the pretty
brown acorn to and fro as if he loved it.
What do they mean?whispered Merry to Jillwho was leaning
against her knee Lo rest.
The boys were walking in the Cemetery last Sunday, as they often
do, and when they came to Ed's grave, the place was all covered
with little acorns from the tree that grows on the bank. They each
took up some as they stood talking, and Jack said he should plant
his, for he loved Ed very much, you know. The others said they
would, too; and I hope the trees will grow, though we don't need
anything to remember him by,answered Jillin a low tone
thinking of the pressed flowers the girls kept for his sake.
The boys heard herbut no one spoke for a moment as they sat
looking across the river toward the hill where the pines whispered
their lullabies and pointed heavenwardsteadfast and greenall the
year round. None of them could express the thought that was in
their minds as Jill told the little story; but the act and the feeling
that prompted it were perhaps as beautiful an assurance as could
have been given that the dear dead boy's example had not been
wastedfor the planting of the acorns was a symbol of the desire
budding in those young hearts to be what he might have beenand
to make their lives nobler for the knowledge and the love of him.
It seems as if a great deal had happened this year,said Merryin
a pensive tonefor this quiet talk just suited her mood.
So I say, for there's been a Declaration of Independence and a
Revolution in our house, and I'm commander-in-chief now; and
don't I like it!cried Mollycomplacently surveying the neat new
uniform she wore of her own choosing.
I feel as if I never learned so much in my life as I have since last
December, and yet I never did so little,added Jillwondering why
the months of weariness and pain did not seem more dreadful to
'Wellpitching on my head seems to have given me a good shaking
upsomehowand I mean to do great things next year in better
ways than breaking my bones coasting said Jack, with a manly
I feel like a Siamese twin without his mate now you are gonebut
I'm under orders for a whileand mean to do my best. Guess it
won't be lost time"; and Frank nodded at Guswho nodded back
with the slightly superior expression all Freshmen wear.
Hope you won't find it so. My work is all cut out for me, and I
intend to go in and win, though it is more of a grind than you
I'm sure I have everything to be grateful for. It won't be plain
sailing--I don't expect it; but, if I live, I'll do something to be proud
of,said Ralphsquaring his shoulders as if to meet and conquer
all obstacles as he looked into the glowing westwas not fairer
than his ambitious dreams.
Here we will say good-by to these girls and boys of ours as they sit
together in the sunshine talking over a year that was to be for ever
memorable to themnot because of any very remarkable events
but because they were just beginning to look about them as they
stepped out of childhood into youthand some of the experiences
of the past months had set them to thinkingtaught them to see the
use and beauty of the small dutiesjoysand sorrows which make
up our livesand inspired them to resolve that the coming year
should be braver and brighter than the last.
There are many such boys and girlsfull of high hopeslovely
possibilitiesand earnest planspausing a moment before they
push their little boats from the safe shore. Let those who launch
them see to it that they have good health to man the oarsgood
education for ballastand good principles as pilots to guide them
as they voyage down an ever-widening river to the sea.