THE JUNIOR CLASSICS
A LIBRARY FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
THE JUNIOR CLASSICS
SELECTED AND ARRANGED BY
WILLIAM PATTEN—MANAGING EDITOR OF THE HARVARD CLASSICS
CHARLES W. ELIOT, L L. D.—PRESIDENT EMERITUS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY
WITH A READING GUIDE BY
WILLIAM ALLAN NEILSON, Ph.D.—PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT SMITH COLLEGE, NORTHAMPTON, MASS., SINCE 1917
The Race for the Silver Skates Mary Mapes Dodge
Nelly's Hospital Louisa M. Alcott
A Fox and a Raven Rebecca H. Davis
The Private Theatricals Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney
A Case of Coincidence Rose Terry Cooke
The Flight of the Dolls Lucretia P. Hale
Solomon John Goes for Apples Lucretia P. Hale
Wild Robin Sophie May
Deacon Thomas Wales' Will Mary E. W. Freeman
Dill Mary E. W. Freeman
Brownie and the Cook Mrs. Dinah M. Craik
Brownie and the Cherry Tree Mrs. Dinah M. Craik
The Ouphe of the Wood Jean Ingelow
The Prince's Dream Jean Ingelow
A Lost Wand Jean Ingelow
Snap-Dragons—A Tale of Christmas Eve Juliana H. Ewing
Uncle Jack's Story Mrs. E. M. Field
Bryda's Dreadful Scrape Mrs. E. M. Field
The Cratchits' Christmas Dinner Charles Dickens
Embellishment Jacob Abbott
The Great Stone Face Nathaniel Hawthorne
The King of the Golden River John Ruskin
The Two Gifts Lillian M. Gask
The Bar of Gold Lillian M. Gask
Uncle David's Nonsensical Story Catherine Sinclair
The Grand Feast Catherine Sinclair
The Story of Fairyfoot Frances Browne
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Down the Rabbit-Hole Lewis Carroll
The Pool of Tears Lewis Carroll
A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale Lewis Carroll
The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill Lewis Carroll
Advice from a Caterpillar Lewis Carroll
Pig and Pepper Lewis Carroll
A Mad Tea-Party Lewis Carroll
The Queen's Croquet Ground Lewis Carroll
The Mock Turtle's Story Lewis Carroll
The Lobster-Quadrille Lewis Carroll
Who Stole the Tarts? Lewis Carroll
Alice's Evidence Lewis Carroll
"EVERYTHING'S GOT A MORAL, IF ONLY YOU CAN FIND IT" Alice in Wonderland
Frontispiece illustration in color from the painting by Beatrice Stevens
"IS THERE A PECULIAR FLAVOR IN WHAT YOU SPRINKLE FROM YOUR TORCH?" ASKED SCROOGE The Cratchits' Christmas Dinner
From the drawing by T. Leech
GLUCK PUT HIS HEAD OUT TO SEE WHO IT WAS The King of the Golden River
From the drawing by Richard Doyle
THE KING AND QUEEN OF HEARTS WERE SEATED ON THEIR THRONE Alice in Wonderland
From the drawing by Sir John Tenniel
THE RACE FOR THE SILVER SKATES
By Mary Mapes Dodge
The 20th of December came at last, bringing with it the perfection of winter weather. All over the level landscape lay the warm sunlight. It tried its power on lake, canal, and river; but the ice flashed defiance, and showed no sign of melting. The very weather-cocks stood still to enjoy the sight. This gave the windmills a holiday. Nearly all the past week they had been whirling briskly: now, being rather out of breath, they rocked lazily in the clear, still air. Catch a windmill working when the weather-cocks have nothing to do!
There was an end to grinding, crushing, and sawing for that day. It was a good thing for the millers near Broek. Long before noon, they concluded to take in their sails, and go to the race. Everybody would be there. Already the north side of the frozen Y was bordered with eager spectators: the news of the great skating-match had travelled far and wide. Men, women, and children, in holiday attire, were flocking toward the spot. Some wore furs, and wintry cloaks or shawls; but many, consulting their feelings rather than the almanac, were dressed as for an October day.
The site selected for the race was a faultless plain of ice near Amsterdam, on that great arm of the Zuyder-Zee, which Dutchmen, of course, must call the Eye. The townspeople turned out in large numbers. Strangers in the city deemed it a fine chance to see what was to be seen. Many a peasant from the northward had wisely chosen the 20th as the day for the next city-trading. It seemed that everybody, young and old, who had wheels, skates, or feet at command, had hastened to the scene.
There were the gentry in their coaches, dressed like Parisians fresh from the Boulevards; Amsterdam children in charity uniforms; girls from the Roman-Catholic Orphan-House, in sable gowns and white headbands; boys from the Burgher Asylum, with their black tights and short-skirted, harlequin coats. [Footnote: This is not said in derision. Both the boys and girls of this institution wear garments quartered in red and black alternately. By making the dress thus conspicuous, the children are, in a measure, deterred from wrong-doing while going about the city. The Burgher Orphan-Asylum affords a comfortable home to several hundred boys and girls. Holland is famous for its charitable institutions.] There were old-fashioned gentlemen in cocked hats and velvet knee-breeches; old-fashioned ladies, too, in stiff, quilted skirts, and bodices of dazzling brocade. These were accompanied by servants bearing foot-stoves and cloaks. There were the peasant-folk arrayed in every possible Dutch costume—shy young rustics in brazen buckles; simple village-maidens concealing their flaxen hair under fillets of gold; women whose long, narrow aprons were stiff with embroidery; women with short corkscrew curls hanging over their foreheads; women with shaved heads and close-fitting caps; and women in striped skirts and windmill bonnets; men in leather, in homespun, in velvet and broadcloth; burghers in model European attire, and burghers in short jackets, wide trousers, and steeple-crowned hats.
There were beautiful Friesland girls in wooden shoes and coarse petticoats, with solid gold crescents encircling their heads, finished at each temple with a golden rosette, and hung with lace a century old. Some wore necklaces, pendants, and ear-rings of the purest gold. Many were content with gilt, or even with brass; but it is not an uncommon thing for a Friesland woman to have all the family treasure in her head-gear. More than one rustic lass displayed the value of two thousand guilders upon her head that day.
Scattered throughout the crowd were peasants from the Island of Marken, with sabots, black stockings, and the widest of breeches; also women from Marken, with short blue petticoats, and black jackets gayly figured in front. They wore red sleeves, white aprons, and a cap like a bishop's mitre over their golden hair.
The children, often, were as quaint and odd-looking as their elders. In short, one-third of the crowd seemed to have stepped bodily from a collection of Dutch paintings.
Everywhere could be seen tall women, and stumpy men, lively-faced girls, and youths whose expression never changed from sunrise to sunset.
There seemed to be at least one specimen from every known town in Holland. There were Utrecht water-bearers, Gouda cheese-makers, Delft pottery-men, Schiedam distillers, Amsterdam diamond-cutters, Rotterdam merchants, dried-up herring-packers, and two sleepy-eyed shepherds from Texel. Every man of them had his pipe and tobacco-pouch. Some carried what might be called the smoker's complete outfit,—a pipe, tobacco, a pricker with which to clean the tube, a silver net for protecting the bowl, and a box of the strongest of brimstone-matches.
A true Dutchman, you must remember, is rarely without his pipe on any possible occasion. He may, for a moment, neglect to breathe; but, when the pipe is forgotten, he must be dying, indeed. There were no such sad cases here. Wreaths of smoke were rising from every possible quarter. The more fantastic the smoke-wreath, the more placid and solemn the smoker.
Look at those boys and girls on stilts! That is a good idea. They can see over the heads of the tallest. It is strange to see those little bodies high in the air, carried about on mysterious legs. They have such a resolute look on their round faces, what wonder that nervous old gentlemen, with tender feet, wince and tremble while the long-legged little monsters stride past them!
You will read, in certain books, that the Dutch are a quiet people: so they are generally. But listen! did ever you hear such a din? All made up of human voices—no, the horses are helping somewhat, and the fiddles are squeaking pitifully (how it must pain fiddles to be tuned!); but the mass of the sound comes from the great vox humana that belongs to a crowd.
That queer little dwarf, going about with a heavy basket, winding in and out among the people, helps not a little. You can hear his shrill cry above all the other sounds, "Pypen en tabac! Pypen en tabac!"
Another, his big brother, though evidently some years younger, is selling doughnuts and bon-bons. He is calling on all pretty children, far and near, to come quickly, or the cakes will be gone.
You know quite a number among the spectators. High up in yonder pavilion, erected upon the border of the ice, are some persons whom you have seen very lately. In the centre is Madame van Gleck. It is her birthday, you remember: she has the post of honor. There is Mynheer van Gleck, whose meerschaum has not really grown fast to his lips: it only appears so. There are grandfather and grandmother, whom you meet at the St. Nicholas fte. All the children are with them. It is so mild, they have brought even the baby. The poor little creature is swaddled very much after the manner of an Egyptian mummy; but it can crow with delight, and, when the band is playing, open and shut its animated mittens in perfect time to the music.
Grandfather, with his pipe and spectacles and fur cap, makes quite a picture as he holds baby upon his knee. Perched high upon their canopied platforms, the party can see all that is going on. No wonder the ladies look complacently at the glassy ice: with a stove for a footstool, one might sit cosily beside the North Pole.
There is a gentleman with them who somewhat resembles St. Nicholas as he appeared to the young Van Glecks, on the fifth of December. But the saint had a flowing white beard; and this face is as smooth as a pippin. His saintship was larger around the body, too, and (between ourselves) he had a pair of thimbles in his mouth, which this gentleman certainly has not. It cannot be St. Nicholas, after all.
Near by, in the next pavilion, sit the Van Holps, with their son and daughter (the Van Gends) from The Hague. Peter's sister is not one to forget her promises.
She has brought bouquets of exquisite hot-house flowers for the winners.
These pavilions, and there are others beside, have all been erected since daylight. That semicircular one, containing Mynheer Korbes's family, is very pretty, and proves that the Hollanders are quite skilled at tent-making; but I like the Van Gleck's best,—the centre one,—striped red and white, and hung with evergreens.
The one with the blue flags contains the musicians. Those pagoda-like affairs, decked with sea-shells, and streamers of every possible hue, are the judges' stands; and those columns and flagstaffs upon the ice mark the limit of the race-course. The two white columns, twined with green, connected at the top by that long, floating strip of drapery, form the starting-point. Those flagstaffs, half a mile off, stand at each end of the boundary line, cut sufficiently deep to be distinct to the skaters, though not enough so to trip them when they turn to come back to the starting-point.
The air is so clear, it seems scarcely possible that the columns and flagstaffs are so far apart. Of course, the judges' stands are but little nearer together.
Half a mile on the ice, when the atmosphere is like this, is but a short distance, after all, especially when fenced with a living chain of spectators.
The music has commenced. How melody seems to enjoy itself in the open air! The fiddles have forgotten their agony; and every thing is harmonious. Until you look at the blue tent, it seems that the music springs from the sunshine, it is so boundless, so joyous. Only when you see the staid-faced musicians, you realize the truth.
Where are the racers? All assembled together near the white columns. It is a beautiful sight,—forty boys and girls in picturesque attire, darting with electric swiftness in and out among each other, or sailing in pairs and triplets, beckoning, chatting, whispering, in the fulness of youthful glee.
A few careful ones are soberly tightening their straps: others, halting on one leg, with flushed, eager faces, suddenly cross the suspected skate over their knee, give it an examining shake, and dart off again. One and all are possessed with the spirit of motion. They cannot stand still. Their skates are a part of them; and every runner seems bewitched.
Holland is the place for skaters, after all. Where else can nearly every boy and girl perform feats on the ice that would attract a crowd if seen on Central Park? Look at Ben! I did not see him before. He is really astonishing the natives; no easy thing to do in the Netherlands. Save your strength, Ben, you will need it soon. Now other boys are trying! Ben is surpassed already. Such jumping, such poising, such spinning, such india-rubber exploits generally! That boy with a red cap is the lion now: his back is a watch-spring, his body is cork—no, it is iron, or it would snap at that. He is a bird, a top, a rabbit, a corkscrew, a sprite, a flesh-ball, all in an instant. When you think he's erect, he is down; and, when you think he is down, he is up. He drops his glove on the ice, and turns a somerset as he picks it up. Without stopping, he snatches the cap from Jacob Poot's astonished head, and claps it back again "hindside before." Lookers-on hurrah and laugh. Foolish boy! It is arctic weather under your feet, but more than temperate overhead. Big drops already are rolling down your forehead. Superb skater, as you are, you may lose the race.
A French traveller, standing with a note-book in his hand, sees our English friend, Ben, buy a doughnut of the dwarf's brother, and eat it. Thereupon he writes in his note-book, that the Dutch take enormous mouthfuls, and universally are fond of potatoes boiled in molasses.
There are some familiar faces near the white columns. Lambert, Ludwig, Peter, and Carl are all there, cool, and in good skating-order. Hans is not far off. Evidently he is going to join in the race, for his skates are on,—the very pair that he sold for seven guilders. He had soon suspected that his fairy godmother was the mysterious "friend" who had bought them. This settled, he had boldly charged her with the deed; and she, knowing well that all her little savings had been spent in the purchase, had not had the face to deny it. Through the fairy godmother, too, he had been rendered amply able to buy them back again. Therefore Hans is to be in the race. Carl is more indignant than ever about it; but, as three other peasant-boys have entered, Hans is not alone.
Twenty boys and twenty girls. The latter, by this time, are standing in front, braced for the start; for they are to have the first "run." Hilda, Rychie, and Katrinka are among them. Two or three bend hastily to give a last pull at their skate-straps. It is pretty to see them stamp to be sure that all is firm. Hilda is speaking pleasantly to a graceful little creature in a red jacket and a new brown petticoat. Why, it is Gretel! What a difference those pretty shoes make, and the skirt, and the new cap! Annie Bouman is there, too. Even Janzoon Kolp's sister has been admitted; but Janzoon himself has been voted out by the directors, because he killed the stork, and only last summer, was caught in the act of robbing a bird's nest,—a legal offence in Holland.
This Janzoon Kolp, you see, was—There, I cannot tell the story just now. The race is about to commence.
Twenty girls are formed in a line. The music has ceased.
A man, whom we shall call the crier, stands between the columns and the first judges' stand. He reads the rules in a loud voice:—
"THE GIRLS AND BOYS ARE TO RACE IN TURN, UNTIL ONE GIRL AND ONE BOY HAS BEATEN TWICE. THEY ARE TO START IN A LINE FROM THE UNITED COLUMNS, SKATE TO THE FLAGSTAFF LINE, TURN, AND THEN COME BACK TO THE STARTING-POINT; THUS MAKING A MILE AT EACH RUN."
A flag is waved from the judges' stand. Madame van Gleck rises in her pavilion. She leans forward with a white handkerchief in her hand. When she drops it, a bugler is to give the signal for them to start.
The handkerchief is fluttering to the ground. Hark!
They are off!
No. Back again. Their line was not true in passing the judges' stand.
The signal is repeated.
Off again. No mistake this time. Whew! how fast they go!
The multitude is quiet for an instant, absorbed in eager, breathless watching.
Cheers spring up along the line of spectators. Huzza! five girls are ahead. Who comes flying back from the boundary-mark? We cannot tell. Something red, that is all. There is a blue spot flitting near it, and a dash of yellow nearer still. Spectators at this end of the line strain their eyes, and wish they had taken their post nearer the flagstaff.
The wave of cheers is coming back again. Now we can see. Katrinka is ahead!
She passes the Van Holp pavilion. The next is Madame van Gleck's. That leaning figure gazing from it is a magnet. Hilda shoots past Katrinka, waving her hand to her mother as she passes. Two others are close now, whizzing on like arrows. What is that flash of red and gray? Hurrah, it is Gretel! She, too, waves her hand, but toward no gay pavilion. The crowd is cheering; but she hears only her father's voice,—"Well done, little Gretel!" Soon Katrinka, with a quick, merry laugh, shoots past Hilda, The girl in yellow is gaining now. She passes them all,—all except Gretel. The judges lean forward without seeming to lift their eyes from their watches. Cheer after cheer fills the air: the very columns seem rocking. Gretel has passed them. She has won.
"GRETEL BRINKER, ONE MILE!" shouts the crier.
The judges nod. They write something upon a tablet which each holds in his hand.
While the girls are resting,—some crowding eagerly around our frightened little Gretel, some standing aside in high disdain,—the boys form in line.
Mynheer van Gleck drops the handkerchief, this time. The buglers give a vigorous blast.
The boys have started.
Halfway already. Did ever you see the like!
Three hundred legs flashing by in an instant. But there are only twenty boys. No matter: there were hundreds of legs, I am sure. Where are they now? There is such a noise, one gets bewildered. What are the people laughing at? Oh! at that fat boy in the rear. See him go! See him! He'll be down in an instant: no, he won't. I wonder if he knows he is all alone: the other boys are nearly at the boundary-line. Yes, he knows it. He stops. He wipes his hot face. He takes off his cap, and looks about him. Better to give up with a good grace. He has made a hundred friends by that hearty, astonished laugh. Good Jacob Poot!
The fine fellow is already among the spectators, gazing as eagerly as the rest.
A cloud of feathery ice flies from the heels of the skaters as they "bring to" and turn at the flagstaffs.
Something black is coming now, one of the boys: it is all we know. He has touched the vox humana stop of the crowd: it fairly roars. Now they come nearer: we can see the red cap. There's Ben, there's Peter, there's Hans!
Hans is ahead. Young Madame van Gend almost crushes the flowers in her hand: she had been quite sure that Peter would be first. Carl Schummel is next, then Ben, and the youth with the red cap. The others are pressing close. A tall figure darts from among them. He passes the red cap, he passes Ben, then Carl. Now it is an even race between him and Hans. Madame van Gend catches her breath.
It is Peter! He is ahead! Hans shoots past him. Hilda's eyes fill with tears: Peter must beat. Annie's eyes flash proudly. Gretel gazes with clasped hands: four strokes more will take her brother to the columns.
He is there! Yes; but so was young Schummel just a second before. At the last instant, Carl, gathering his powers, had whizzed between them, and passed the goal.
"CARL SCHUMMEL, ONE MILE!" shouts the crier.
Soon Madame van Gleck rises again. The falling handkerchief starts the bugle; and the bugle, using its voice as a bow-string, shoots off twenty girls like so many arrows.
It is a beautiful sight; but one has not long to look: before we can fairly distinguish them, they are far in the distance. This time they are close upon one another. It is hard to say, as they come speeding back from the flagstaff, which will reach the columns first. There are new faces among the foremost,—eager, glowing faces, unnoticed before. Katrinka is there, and Hilda; but Gretel and Rychie are in the rear. Gretel is wavering, but, when Rychie passes her, she starts forward afresh. Now they are nearly beside Katrinka. Hilda is still in advance: she is almost "home." She has not faltered since that bugle-note sent her flying: like an arrow, still she is speeding toward the goal. Cheer after cheer rises in the air. Peter is silent; but his eyes shine like stars. "Huzza! Huzza!"
The crier's voice is heard again.
"HILDA VAN GLECK, ONE MILE!"
A loud murmur of approval runs through the crowd, catching the music in its course, till all seems one sound, with a glad rhythmic throbbing in its depths. When the flag waves, all is still.
Once more the bugle blows a terrific blast. It sends off the boys like chaff before the wind,—dark chaff, I admit, and in big pieces.
It is whisked around at the flagstaff, driven faster yet by the cheers and shouts along the line. We begin to see what is coming. There are three boys in advance, this time, and all abreast,—Hans, Peter, and Lambert. Carl soon breaks the ranks, rushing through with a whiff. Fly, Hans; fly, Peter: don't let Carl beat again!—Carl the bitter, Carl the insolent. Van Mounen is flagging; but you are as strong as ever. Hans and Peter, Peter and Hans: which is foremost? We love them both. We scarcely care which is the fleeter.
Hilda, Annie, and Gretel, seated upon the long crimson bench, can remain quiet no longer. They spring to their feet, so different! and yet one in eagerness. Hilda instantly reseats herself: none shall know how interested she is; none shall know how anxious, how filled with one hope. Shut your eyes, then, Hilda, hide your face rippling with joy. Peter has beaten.
"PETER VAN HOLP, ONE MILE!" calls the crier.
The same buzz of excitement as before, while the judges take notes, the same throbbing of music through the din; but something is different. A little crowd presses close about some object near the column. Carl has fallen. He is not hurt, though somewhat stunned. If he were less sullen, he would find more sympathy in these warm young hearts. As it is, they forget him as soon as he is fairly on his feet again.
The girls are to skate their third mile.
How resolute the little maidens look as they stand in a line! Some are solemn with a sense of responsibility; some wear a smile half-bashful, half-provoked: but one air of determination pervades them all.
This third mile may decide the race. Still, if neither Gretel nor Hilda win, there is yet a chance among the rest for the silver skates.
Each girl feels sure, that, this time, she will accomplish the distance in one-half the time. How they stamp to try their runners! How nervously they examine each strap! How erect they stand at last, every eye upon Madame van Gleck!
The bugle thrills through them again. With quivering eagerness they spring forward, bending, but in perfect balance. Each flashing stroke seems longer than the last.
Now they are skimming off in the distance.
Again the eager straining of eyes; again the shouts and cheering; again the thrill of excitement, as, after a few moments, four or five, in advance of, the rest, come speeding back, nearer, nearer, to the white columns.
Who is first? Not Rychie, Katrinka, Annie, nor Hilda, nor the girl in yellow, but Gretel,—Gretel, the fleetest sprite of a girl that ever skated. She was but playing in the earlier race: now she is in earnest, or, rather, something within her has determined to win. That lithe little form makes no effort; but it cannot stop,—not until the goal is passed!
In vain the crier lifts his voice: he cannot be heard. He has no news to tell: it is already ringing through the crowd,—Gretel has won the silver skates!
Like a bird, she has flown over the ice; like a bird, she looks about her in a timid, startled way. She longs to dart to the sheltered nook where her father and mother stand. But Hans is beside her: the girls are crowding round. Hilda's kind, joyous voice breathes in her ear. From that hour, none will despise her. Goose-girl, or not, Gretel stands acknowledged Queen of the Skaters.
With natural pride, Hans turns to see if Peter van Holp is witnessing his sister's triumph. Peter is not looking toward them at all. He is kneeling, bending his troubled face low, and working hastily at his skate-strap. Hans is beside him at once.
"Are you in trouble, mynheer?"
"Ah, Hans! that you? Yes, my fun is over. I tried to tighten my strap, to make a new hole; and this botheration of a knife has cut it nearly in two."
"Mynheer," said Hans, at the same time pulling off a skate, "you must use my strap!"
"Not I, indeed, Hans Brinker!" cried Peter, looking up, "though I thank you warmly. Go to your post, my friend: the bugle will sound in a minute."
"Mynheer!" pleaded Hans in a husky voice. "You have called me your friend. Take this strap—quick! There is not an instant to lose. I shall not skate this time; indeed, I am out of practice. Mynheer, you must take it;" and Hans, blind and deaf to any remonstrance, slipped his strap into Peter's skate, and implored him to put it on.
"Come, Peter!" cried Lambert from the line: "we are waiting for you."
"For madame's sake," pleaded Hans, "be quick! She is motioning to you to join the racers. There, the skate is almost on: quick, mynheer, fasten it. I could not possibly win. The race lies between Master Schummel and yourself."
"You are a noble fellow, Hans!" cried Peter, yielding at last. He sprang to his post just as the white handkerchief fell to the ground. The bugle sends forth its blast, loud, clear, and ringing.
Off go the boys.
"Mein Gott!" cries a tough old fellow from Delft. "They beat every thing,—these Amsterdam youngsters. See them!"
See them, indeed! They are winged Mercuries, every one of them. What mad errand are they on?
Ah, I know: they are hunting Peter van Holp. He is some fleet-footed runaway from Olympus. Mercury and his troop of winged cousins are in full chase. They will catch him! Now Carl is the runaway. The pursuit grows furious. Ben is foremost.
The chase turns in a cloud of mist. It is coming this way. Who is hunted now? Mercury himself. It is Peter, Peter van Holp! Fly, Peter! Hans is watching you. He is sending all his fleetness, all his strength, into your feet. Your mother and sister are pale with eagerness. Hilda is trembling, and dare not look up. Fly, Peter! The crowd has not gone deranged: it is only cheering. The pursuers are close upon you. Touch the white column! It beckons; it is reeling before you—it—
"Huzza! Huzza! Peter has won the silver skates!"
"PETER VAN HOLP!" shouted the crier. But who heard him? "Peter van Holp!" shouted a hundred voices; for he was the favorite boy of the place. "Huzza! Huzza!"
Now the music was resolved to be heard. It struck up a lively air, then a tremendous march. The spectators, thinking something new was about to happen, deigned to listen and to look.
The racers formed in single file. Peter, being tallest, stood first. Gretel, the smallest of all, took her place at the end. Hans, who had borrowed a strap from the cake-boy, was near the head.
Three gayly-twined arches were placed at intervals upon the river, facing the Van Gleck pavilion.
Skating slowly, and in perfect time to the music, the boys and girls moved forward, led on by Peter. It was beautiful to see the bright procession glide along like a living creature. It curved and doubled, and drew its graceful length in and out among the arches: whichever way Peter, the head, went, the body was sure to follow. Sometimes it steered direct for the centre arch; then, as if seized with a new impulse, turned away and curled itself about the first one; then unwound slowly, and bending low, with quick, snake-like curvings, crossed the river, passing at length through the farthest arch.
When the music was slow, the procession seemed to crawl like a thing afraid: it grew livelier, and the creature darted forward with a spring, gliding rapidly among the arches, in and out, curling, twisting, turning, never losing form, until at the shrill call of the bugle rising above the music, it suddenly resolved itself into boys and girls standing in double semicircle before Madame van Gleck's pavilion.
Peter and Gretel stand in the centre, in advance of the others. Madame van Gleck rises majestically. Gretel trembles, but feels that she must look at the beautiful lady. She cannot hear what is said, there is such a buzzing all around her. She is thinking that she ought to try and make a courtesy, such as her mother makes to the meester, when suddenly something so dazzling is placed in her hand that she gives a cry of joy.
Then she ventures to look about her. Peter, too, has something in his hands. "Oh, Oh! how splendid!" she cries; and "Oh! how splendid!" is echoed as far as people can see.
Meantime the silver skates flash in the sunshine, throwing dashes of light upon those two happy faces.
Mevrouw van Gend sends a little messenger with her bouquets,—one for Hilda, one for Carl, and others for Peter and Gretel.
At sight of the flowers, the Queen of the Skaters becomes uncontrollable. With a bright stare of gratitude, she gathers skates and bouquet in her apron, hugs them to her bosom, and darts off to search for her father and mother in the scattering crowd.
By Louisa M. Alcott
Nelly sat beside her mother picking lint; but while her fingers flew, her eyes often looked wistfully out into the meadow, golden with buttercups, and bright with sunshine. Presently she said, rather bashfully, but very earnestly, "Mamma, I want to tell you a little plan I've made, if you'll please not laugh."
"I think I can safely promise that, my dear," said her mother, putting down her work that she might listen quite respectfully.
Nelly looked pleased, and went on confidingly.
"Since brother Will came home with his lame foot, and I've helped you tend him, I've heard a great deal about hospitals, and liked it very much. To-day I said I wanted to go and be a nurse, like Aunt Mercy; but Will laughed, and told me I'd better begin by nursing sick birds and butterflies and pussies before I tried to take care of men. I did not like to be made fun of, but I've been thinking that it would be very pleasant to have a little hospital all my own, and be a nurse in it, because, if I took pains, so many pretty creatures might be made well, perhaps. Could I, mamma?"
Her mother wanted to smile at the idea, but did not, for Nelly looked up with her heart and eyes so full of tender compassion, both for the unknown men for whom her little hands had done their best, and for the smaller sufferers nearer home, that she stroked the shining head, and answered readily:
"Yes, Nelly, it will be a proper charity for such a young Samaritan, and you may learn much if you are in earnest. You must study how to feed and nurse your little patients, else your pity will do no good, and your hospital become a prison. I will help you, and Tony shall be your surgeon."
"O mamma, how good you always are to me! Indeed, I am in truly earnest; I will learn, I will be kind, and may I go now and begin?"
"You may, but tell me first where will you have your hospital?"
"In my room, mamma; it is so snug and sunny, and I never should forget it there," said Nelly.
"You must not forget it anywhere. I think that plan will not do. How would you like to find caterpillars walking in your bed, to hear sick pussies mewing in the night, to have beetles clinging to your clothes, or see mice, bugs, and birds tumbling downstairs whenever the door was open?" said her mother.
Nelly laughed at that thought a minute, then clapped her hands, and cried: "Let us have the old summer-house! My doves only use the upper part, and it would be so like Frank in the storybook. Please say yes again, mamma."
Her mother did say yes, and, snatching up her hat, Nelly ran to find Tony, the gardener's son, a pleasant lad of twelve, who was Nelly's favorite playmate. Tony pronounced the plan a "jolly" one, and, leaving his work, followed his young mistress to the summer-house, for she could not wait one minute.
"What must we do first?" she asked, as they stood looking in at the dim, dusty room, full of garden tools, bags of seeds, old flower-pots, and watering-cans.
"Clear out the rubbish, miss," answered Tony.
"Here it goes, then," and Nelly began bundling everything out in such haste that she broke two flower-pots, scattered all the squash-seeds, and brought a pile of rakes and hoes clattering down about her ears.
"Just wait a bit, and let me take the lead, miss. You hand me things, I'll pile 'em in the barrow and wheel 'em off to the barn; then it will save time, and be finished up tidy."
Nelly did as he advised, and very soon nothing but dust remained.
"What next?" she asked, not knowing in the least.
"I'll sweep up while you see if Polly can come and scrub the room out. It ought to be done before you stay here, let alone the patients."
"So it had," said Nelly, looking very wise all of a sudden. "Will says the wards—that means the rooms, Tony—are scrubbed every day or two, and kept very clean, and well venti—something—I can't say it; but it means having a plenty of air come in. I can clean windows while Polly mops, and then we shall soon be done."
Away she ran, feeling very busy and important. Polly came, and very soon the room looked like another place. The four latticed windows were set wide open, so the sunshine came dancing through the vines that grew outside, and curious roses peeped in to see what frolic was afoot. The walls shone white again, for not a spider dared to stay; the wide seat which encircled the room was dustless now,—the floor as nice as willing hands could make it; and the south wind blew away all musty odors with its fragrant breath.
"How fine it looks!" cried Nelly, dancing on the doorstep, lest a foot-print should mar the still damp floor.
"I'd almost like to fall sick for the sake of staying here," said Tony, admiringly. "Now, what sort of beds are you going to have, miss?"
"I suppose it won't do to put butterflies and toads and worms into beds like the real soldiers where Will was?" answered Nelly, looking anxious.
Tony could hardly help shouting at the idea; but, rather than trouble his little mistress, he said Very soberly: "I'm afraid they wouldn't lay easy, not being used to it. Tucking up a butterfly would about kill him; the worms would be apt to get lost among the bed-clothes; and the toads would tumble out the first thing."
"I shall have to ask mamma about it. What will you do while I'm gone?" said Nelly, unwilling that a moment should be lost.
"I'll make frames for nettings to the windows, else the doves will come in and eat up the sick people."
"I think they will know that it is a hospital, and be too kind to hurt or frighten their neighbors," began Nelly; but as she spoke, a plump white dove walked in, looked about with its red-winged eyes, and quietly pecked up a tiny bug that had just ventured out from the crack where it had taken refuge when the deluge came.
"Yes, we must have the nettings. I'll ask mamma for some lace," said Nelly, when she saw that; and, taking her pet dove on her shoulder, told it about her hospital as she went toward the house: for, loving all little creatures as she did, it grieved her to have any harm befall even the least or plainest of them. She had a sweet child-fancy that her playmates understood her language as she did theirs, and that birds, flowers, animals, and insects felt for her the same affection which she felt for them. Love always makes friends, and nothing seemed to fear the gentle child; but welcomed her like a little sun who shone alike on all, and never suffered an eclipse.
She was gone some time, and when she came back her mind was full of new plans, one hand full of rushes, the other of books, while over her head floated the lace, and a bright green ribbon hung across her arm.
"Mamma says that the best beds will be little baskets, boxes, cages, and any sort of thing that suits the patients; for each will need different care and food and medicine. I have not baskets enough, so, as I cannot have pretty white beds, I am going to braid pretty green nests for my patients, and, while I do it, mamma thought you'd read to me the pages she has marked, so that we may begin right."
"Yes, miss; I like that. But what is the ribbon for?" asked Tony.
"O, that's for you. Will says that, if you are to be an army surgeon, you must have a green band on your arm; so I got this to tie on when we play hospital."
Tony let her decorate the sleeve of his gray jacket, and when the nettings were done, the welcome books were opened and enjoyed. It was a happy time, sitting in the sunshine, with leaves pleasantly astir all about them, doves cooing overhead, and flowers sweetly gossiping together through the summer afternoon. Nelly wove her smooth, green rushes, Tony pored over his pages, and both found something better than fairy legends in the family histories of insects, birds, and beasts. All manner of wonders appeared, and were explained to them, till Nelly felt as if a new world had been given her, so full of beauty, interest, and pleasure that she never could be tired of studying it. Many of these things were not strange to Tony, because, born among plants, he had grown up with them as if they were brothers and sisters, and the sturdy, brown-faced boy had learned many lessons which no poet or philosopher could have taught him, unless he had become as childlike as himself, and studied from the same great book.
When the baskets were done, the marked pages all read, and the sun began to draw his rosy curtains round him before smiling "Good night," Nelly ranged the green beds round the room, Tony put in the screens, and the hospital was ready. The little nurse was so excited that she could hardly eat her supper, and directly afterwards ran up to tell Will how well she had succeeded with the first part of her enterprise. Now brother Will was a brave young officer, who had fought stoutly and done his duty like a man. But when lying weak and wounded at home, the cheerful courage which had led him safely through many dangers seemed to have deserted him, and he was often gloomy, sad, or fretful, because he longed to be at his post again, and time passed very slowly. This troubled his mother, and made Nelly wonder why he found lying in a pleasant room so much harder than fighting battles or making weary marches. Anything that interested and amused him was very welcome, and when Nelly, climbing on the arm of his sofa, told her plans, mishaps, and successes, he laughed out more heartily than he had done for many a day, and his thin face began to twinkle with fun as it used to do so long ago. That pleased Nelly, and she chatted like any affectionate little magpie, till Will was really interested; for when one is ill, small things amuse.
"Do you expect your patients to come to you, Nelly?" he asked.
"No, I shall go and look for them. I often see poor things suffering in the garden, and the wood, and always feel as if they ought to be taken care of, as people are."
"You won't like to carry insane bugs, lame toads, and convulsive kittens in your hands, and they would not stay on a stretcher if you had one. You should have an ambulance and be a branch of the Sanitary Commission," said Will.
Nelly had often heard the words, but did not quite understand what they meant. So Will told her of that great never-failing charity, to which thousands owe their lives; and the child listened with lips apart, eyes often full, and so much love and admiration in her heart that she could find no words in which to tell it. When her brother paused, she said earnestly: "Yes, I will be a Sanitary. This little cart of mine shall be my amb'lance, and I'll never let my water-barrels go empty, never drive too fast, or be rough with my poor passengers, like some of the men you tell about. Does this look like an amb'lance, Will?"
"Not a bit, but it shall, if you and mamma like to help me. I want four long bits of cane, a square of white cloth, some pieces of thin wood, and the gum-pot," said Will, sitting up to examine the little cart, feeling like a boy again as he took out his knife and began to whittle.
Upstairs and downstairs ran Nelly till all necessary materials were collected, and almost breathlessly she watched her brother arch the canes over the cart, cover them with the cloth, and fit an upper shelf of small compartments, each lined with cotton-wool to serve as beds for wounded insects, lest they should hurt one another or jostle out. The lower part was left free for any larger creatures which Nelly might find. Among her toys she had a tiny cask which only needed a peg to be water-tight; this was filled and fitted in before, because, as the small sufferers needed no seats, there was no place for it behind, and, as Nelly was both horse and driver, it was more convenient in front.
On each side of it stood a box of stores. In one were minute rollers, as bandages are called, a few bottles not yet filled, and a wee doll's jar of cold-cream, because Nelly could not feel that her outfit was complete without a medicine-chest. The other box was full of crumbs, bits of sugar, bird-seed, and grains of wheat and corn, lest any famished stranger should die for want of food before she got it home. Then mamma painted "U. S. San. Com." in bright letters on the cover, and Nelly received her charitable plaything with a long sigh of satisfaction.
"Nine o'clock already. Bless me, what a short evening this has been," exclaimed Will, as Nelly came to give him her good-night kiss.
"And such a happy one," she answered. "Thank you very, very much, dear Will. I only wish my little amb'lance was big enough for you to go in,—I'd so like to give you the first ride."
"Nothing I should like better, if it were possible, though I've a prejudice against ambulances in general. But as I cannot ride, I'll try and hop out to your hospital to-morrow, and see how you get on,"—which was a great deal for Captain Will to say, because he had been too listless to leave his sofa for several days.
That promise sent Nelly happily away to bed, only stopping to pop her head out of the window to see if it was likely to be a fair day to-morrow, and to tell Tony about the new plan as he passed below.
"Where shall you go to look for your first load of sick folks, miss?" he asked.
"All round the garden first, then through the grove, and home across the brook. Do you think I can find any patients so?" said Nelly.
"I know you will. Good night, miss," and Tony walked away with a merry look on his face, that Nelly would not have understood if she had seen it.
Up rose the sun bright and early, and up rose Nurse Nelly almost as early and as bright. Breakfast was taken in a great hurry, and before the dew was off the grass this branch of the S. C. was all astir. Papa, mamma, big brother and baby sister, men and maids, all looked out to see the funny little ambulance depart, and nowhere in all the summer fields was there a happier child than Nelly, as she went smiling down the garden path, where tall flowers kissed her as she passed and every blithe bird seemed singing a "Good speed!"
"How I wonder what I shall find first," she thought, looking sharply on all sides as she went. Crickets chirped, grasshoppers leaped, ants worked busily at their subterranean houses, spiders spun shining webs from twig to twig, bees were coming for their bags of gold, and butterflies had just begun their holiday. A large white one alighted on the top of the ambulance, walked over the inscription as if spelling it letter by letter, then floated away from flower to flower, like one carrying the good news far and wide.
"Now every one will know about the hospital and be glad to see me coming," thought Nelly. And indeed it seemed so, for just then a blackbird, sitting on the garden wall, burst out with a song full of musical joy, Nelly's kitten came running after to stare at the wagon and rub her soft side against it, a bright-eyed toad looked out from his cool bower among the lily-leaves, and at that minute Nelly found her first patient. In one of the dewy cobwebs hanging from a shrub near by sat a fat black and yellow spider, watching a fly whose delicate wings were just caught in the net. The poor fly buzzed pitifully, and struggled so hard that the whole web shook; but the more he struggled, the more he entangled himself, and the fierce spider was preparing to descend that it might weave a shroud about its prey, when a little finger broke the threads and lifted the fly safely into the palm of a hand, where he lay faintly humming his thanks.
Nelly had heard much about contrabands, knew who they were, and was very much interested in them; so, when she freed the poor black fly, she played he was her contraband, and felt glad that her first patient was one that needed help so much. Carefully brushing away as much of the web as she could, she left small Pompey, as she named him, to free his own legs, lest her clumsy fingers should hurt him; then she laid him in one of the soft beds with a grain or two of sugar if he needed refreshment, and bade him rest and recover from his fright, remembering that he was at liberty to fly away whenever he liked, because she had no wish to make a slave of him.
Feeling very happy over this new friend, Nelly went on singing softly as she walked, and presently she found a pretty caterpillar dressed in brown fur, although the day was warm. He lay so still she thought him dead, till he rolled himself into a ball as she touched him.
"I think you are either faint from the heat of this thick coat of yours, or that you are going to make a cocoon of yourself, Mr. Fuzz," said Nelly. "Now I want to see you turn into a butterfly, so I shall take you, and if you get lively again I will let you go. I shall play that you have given out on a march, as the soldiers sometimes do, and been left behind for the Sanitary people to see to."
In went sulky Mr. Fuzz, and on trundled the ambulance till a golden green rose-beetle was discovered, lying on his back kicking as if in a fit.
"Dear me, what shall I do for him?" thought Nelly. "He acts as baby did when she was so ill, and mamma put her in a warm bath. I haven't got my little tub here, or any hot water, and I'm afraid the beetle would not like it if I had. Perhaps he has pain in his stomach; I'll turn him over, and pat his back, as nurse does baby's when she cries for pain like that."
She set the beetle on his legs, and did her best to comfort him; but he was evidently in great distress, for he could not walk, and instead of lifting his emerald overcoat, and spreading the wings that lay underneath, he turned over again, and kicked more violently than before. Not knowing what to do, Nelly put him into one of her soft nests for Tony to cure if possible. She found no more patients in the garden except a dead bee, which she wrapped in a leaf, and took home to bury. When she came to the grove, it was so green and cool she longed to sit and listen to the whisper of the pines, and watch the larch-tassels wave in the wind. But, recollecting her charitable errand, she went rustling along the pleasant path till she came to another patient, over which she stood considering several minutes before she could decide whether it was best to take it to her hospital, because it was a little gray snake, with a bruised tail. She knew it would not hurt her, yet she was afraid of it; she thought it pretty, yet could not like it; she pitied its pain, yet shrunk from helping it, for it had a fiery eye, and a keen quivering tongue, that looked as if longing to bite.
"He is a rebel, I wonder if I ought to be good to him," thought Nelly, watching the reptile writhe with pain. "Will said there were sick rebels in his hospital, and one was very kind to him. It says, too, in my little book, 'Love your enemies.' I think snakes are mine, but I guess I'll try and love him because God made him. Some boy will kill him if I leave him here, and then perhaps his mother will be very sad about it. Come, poor worm, I wish to help you, so be patient, and don't frighten me."
Then Nelly laid her little handkerchief on the ground, and with a stick gently lifted the wounded snake upon it, and, folding it together, laid it in the ambulance. She was thoughtful after that, and so busy puzzling her young head about the duty of loving those who hate us, and being kind to those who are disagreeable or unkind, that she went through the rest of the wood quite forgetful of her work. A soft "Queek, queek!" made her look up and listen. The sound came from the long meadow-grass, and, bending it carefully back, she found a half-fledged bird, with one wing trailing on the ground, and its eyes dim with pain or hunger.
"You darling thing, did you fall out of your nest and hurt your wing?" cried Nelly, looking up into the single tree that stood near by. No nest was to be seen, no parent birds hovered overhead, and little Robin could only tell its troubles in that mournful "Queek, queek, queek!"
Nelly ran to get both her chests, and, sitting down beside the bird, tried to feed it. To her great joy it ate crumb after crumb, as if it were half starved, and soon fluttered nearer with a confiding fearlessness that made her very proud. Soon baby Robin seemed quite comfortable, his eye brightened, he "queeked" no more, and but for the drooping wing would have been himself again. With one of her bandages Nelly bound both wings closely to his sides for fear he should hurt himself by trying to fly; and though he seemed amazed at her proceedings, he behaved very well, only staring at her, and ruffling up his few feathers in a funny way that made her laugh. Then she had to discover some way of accommodating her two larger patients so that neither should hurt nor alarm the other. A bright thought came to her after much pondering. Carefully lifting the handkerchief, she pinned the two ends to the roof of the cart, and there swung little Forked-tongue, while Rob lay easily below.
By this time Nelly began to wonder how it happened that she found so many more injured things than ever before. But it never entered her innocent head that Tony had searched the wood and meadow before she was up, and laid most of these creatures ready to her hands, that she might not be disappointed. She had not yet lost her faith in fairies, so she fancied they too belonged to her small sisterhood, and presently it did really seem impossible to doubt that the good folk had been at work.
Coming to the bridge that crossed the brook, she stopped a moment to watch the water ripple over the bright pebbles, the ferns bend down to drink, and the funny tadpoles frolic in quieter nooks, where the sun shone, and the dragon-flies swung among the rushes. When Nelly turned to go on, her blue eyes opened wide, and the handle of the ambulance dropped with a noise that caused a stout frog to skip into the water heels over head.
Directly in the middle of the bridge was a pretty green tent, made of two tall burdock leaves. The stems were stuck into cracks between the boards, the tips were pinned together with a thorn, and one great buttercup nodded in the doorway like a sleepy sentinel. Nelly stared and smiled, listened, and looked about on every side. Nothing was seen but the quiet meadow and the shady grove, nothing was heard but the babble of the brook and the cheery music of the bobolinks.
"Yes," said Nelly softly to herself, "that is a fairy tent, and in it I may find a baby elf sick with whooping-cough or scarlet-fever. How splendid it would be! only I could never nurse such a dainty thing."
Stooping eagerly, she peeped over the buttercup's drowsy head, and saw what seemed a tiny cock of hay. She had no time to feel disappointed, for the haycock began to stir, and, looking nearer, she beheld two silvery gray mites, who wagged wee tails, and stretched themselves as if they had just waked up. Nelly knew that they were young field-mice, and rejoiced over them, feeling rather relieved that no fairy had appeared, though she still believed them to have had a hand in the matter.
"I shall call the mice my Babes in the Wood, because they are lost and covered up with leaves," said Nelly, as she laid them in her snuggest bed, where they nestled close together, and fell fast asleep again.
Being very anxious to get home, that she might tell her adventures, and show how great was the need of a sanitary commission in that region, Nelly marched proudly up the avenue, and, having displayed her load, hurried to the hospital, where another applicant was waiting for her. On the step of the door lay a large turtle, with one claw gone, and on his back was pasted a bit of paper, with his name,—"Commodore Waddle, U. S. N." Nelly knew this was a joke of Will's, but welcomed the ancient mariner, and called Tony to help her get him in.
All that morning they were very busy settling the new-comer, for both people and books had to be consulted before they could decide what diet and treatment was best for each. The winged contraband had taken Nelly at her word, and flown away on the journey home. Little Rob was put in a large cage, where he could use his legs, yet not injure his lame wing. Forked-tongue lay under a wire cover, on sprigs of fennel, for the gardener said that snakes were fond of it. The Babes in the Wood were put to bed in one of the rush baskets, under a cotton-wool coverlet. Greenback, the beetle, found ease for his unknown aches in the warm heart of a rose, where he sunned himself all day. The Commodore was made happy in a tub of water, grass, and stones, and Mr. Fuzz was put in a well-ventilated glass box to decide whether he would be a cocoon or not.
Tony had not been idle while his mistress was away, and he showed her the hospital garden he had made close by, in which were cabbage, nettle, and mignonette plants for the butterflies, flowering herbs for the bees, chick-weed and hemp for the birds, catnip for the pussies, and plenty of room left for whatever other patients might need. In the afternoon, while Nelly did her task at lint-picking, talking busily to Will as she worked, and interesting him in her affairs, Tony cleared a pretty spot in the grove for the burying-ground, and made ready some small bits of slate on which to write the names of those who died. He did not have it ready an hour too soon, for at sunset two little graves were needed, and Nurse Nelly shed tender tears for her first losses as she laid the motherless mice in one smooth hollow, and the gray-coated rebel in the other. She had learned to care for him already, and when she found him dead, was very glad she had been kind to him, hoping that he knew it, and died happier in her hospital than all alone in the shadowy wood.
The rest of Nelly's patients prospered, and of the many added afterward few died, because of Tony's skilful treatment and her own faithful care. Every morning when the day proved fair the little ambulance went out upon its charitable errand; every afternoon Nelly worked for the human sufferers whom she loved; and every evening brother Will read aloud to her from useful books, showed her wonders with his microscope, or prescribed remedies for the patients, whom he soon knew by name and took much interest in. It was Nelly's holiday; but, though she studied no lessons, she learned much, and unconsciously made her pretty play both an example and a rebuke for others.
At first it seemed a childish pastime, and people laughed. But there was something in the familiar words "sanitary," "hospital," and "ambulance" that made them pleasant sounds to many ears. As reports of Nelly's work went through the neighborhood, other children came to see and copy her design. Rough lads looked ashamed when in her wards they found harmless creatures hurt by them, and going out they said among themselves, "We won't stone birds, chase butterflies, and drown the girls' little cats any more, though we won't tell them so." And most of the lads kept their word so well that people said there never had been so many birds before as all that summer haunted wood and field. Tender-hearted playmates brought their pets to be cured; even busy farmers had a friendly word for the small charity, which reminded them so sweetly of the great one which should never be forgotten; lonely mothers sometimes looked out with wet eyes as the little ambulance went by, recalling thoughts of absent sons who might be journeying painfully to some far-off hospital, where brave women waited to tend them with hands as willing, hearts as tender, as those the gentle child gave to her self-appointed task.
At home the charm worked also. No more idle days for Nelly, or fretful ones for Will, because the little sister would not neglect the helpless creatures so dependent upon her, and the big brother was ashamed to complain after watching the patience of these lesser sufferers, and merrily said he would try to bear his own wound as quietly and bravely as the "Commodore" bore his. Nelly never knew how much good she had done Captain Will till he went away again in the early autumn. Then he thanked her for it, and though she cried for joy and sorrow she never forgot it, because he left something behind him which always pleasantly reminded her of the double success her little hospital had won.
When Will was gone and she had prayed softly in her heart that God would keep him safe and bring him home again, she dried her tears and went away to find comfort in the place where he had spent so many happy hours with her. She had not been there before that day, and when she reached the door she stood quite still and wanted very much to cry again, for something beautiful had happened. She had often asked Will for a motto for her hospital, and he had promised to find her one. She thought he had forgotten it; but even in the hurry of that busy day he had found time to do more than keep his word, while Nelly sat indoors, lovingly brightening the tarnished buttons on the blue coat that had seen so many battles.
Above the roof, where the doves cooed in the sun, now rustled a white flag with the golden "S. C." shining on it as the wind tossed it to and fro. Below, on the smooth panel of the door, a skilful pencil had drawn two arching ferns, in whose soft shadow, poised upon a mushroom, stood a little figure of Nurse Nelly, and underneath it another of Dr. Tony bottling medicine, with spectacles upon his nose. Both hands of the miniature Nelly were outstretched, as if beckoning to a train of insects, birds and beasts, which was so long that it not only circled round the lower rim of this fine sketch, but dwindled in the distance to mere dots and lines. Such merry conceits as one found there! A mouse bringing the tail it had lost in some cruel trap, a dor-bug with a shade over its eyes, an invalid butterfly carried in a tiny litter by long-legged spiders, a fat frog with gouty feet hopping upon crutches, Jenny Wren sobbing in a nice handkerchief, as she brought dear dead Cock Robin to be restored to life. Rabbits, lambs, cats, calves, and turtles, all came trooping up to be healed by the benevolent little maid who welcomed them so heartily.
Nelly laughed at these comical mites till the tears ran down her cheeks, and thought she never could be tired of looking at them. But presently she saw four lines clearly printed underneath her picture, and her childish face grew sweetly serious as she read the words of a great poet, which Will had made both compliment and motto:—
"He prayeth best who loveth best All things, both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all"
A FOX AND A RAVEN
By Rebecca Harding Davis
[A raven, sitting high up on a limb, had a fine piece of cheese. He was just going to enjoy it, when along came Mr. Fox. Now the fox wanted the cheese, and he knew he could not catch the raven. So he began to flatter the raven's croaking voice, and to beg the raven for one of his "sweet songs." At last the poor raven, silly with flattery, opened his mouth to sing—when lo! the cheese dropped to the ground, and off ran the wily fox with the stolen treasure in his mouth. The raven flew away, and never was heard of again.]
Donee was a king's daughter. She had heard her father talk of the battles into which he had led his mighty warriors, and of how all the world that she knew had once been his, from the hills behind which the sun rose to the broad rushing river where it set. Now all of this account was strictly true.
But the king, as he talked, wore no clothes but a muddy pair of cotton trousers, and sat on a log in the sun, a pig rooting about his bare feet. Black Joe, going by, called him a lazy old red-skin; and that was true, too. But these differing accounts naturally confused Donee's mind. When the old chief was dead, however, there was an end of all talk of his warriors or battles. A large part of the land was left, though; a long stretch of river bottom and forests, with but very little swamp. Donee's brother, Oostogah, when he was in a good humor, planted and hoed a field of corn (as he had no wife to do it for him), and with a little fish and game, they managed to find enough to eat. Oostogah and the little girl lived in a hut built of logs and mud, and, as the floor of it never had been scrubbed, the grass actually began to grow out of the dirt in the corners. There was a log smouldering on the hearth, where Donee baked cakes of pounded corn and beans in the ashes, and on the other side of the dark room was the heap of straw where she slept. Besides this, there were two hacked stumps of trees which served for chairs, and an iron pot out of which they ate; and there you have the royal plenishing of that palace.
All the other Indians had long ago gone West. Donee had nothing and nobody to play with. She was as easily scared as a rabbit; yet sometimes, when Oostogah was gone for days together, she was so lonely that she would venture down through the swamp to peep out at the water-mill and the two or three houses which the white people had built. The miller, of all the white people, was the one that she liked best to watch, he was so big and round, and jolly; and one day, when he had met her in the path, he did not call her "Injun," or "red nigger," as the others did, but had said: "Where's your brother, my dear?" just as if she were white. She saw, sometimes, his two little girls and boy playing about the mill-door, and they were round and fat, and jolly, just like their father.
At last, one day Oostogah went down to the mill, and Donee plucked up her courage and followed him. When she was there hiding close behind the trough in which the horses were watered, so that nobody could see her, she heard the miller say to her brother: "You ought to go to work to clear your land, my lad. In two years there will be hundreds of people moving in here, and you own the best part of the valley."
Oostogah nodded. "The whole country once belonged to my people."
"That's neither here nor there," said the miller. "Dead chickens don't count for hatching. You go to work now and clear your land, and you can sell it for enough to give you and this little girl behind the trough an education. Enough to give you both a chance equal to any white children."
Oostogah nodded again, but said nothing. He was shrewd enough, and could work, too, when he was in the humor. "Come, Donee," he said.
But the miller's little Thad. and Jenny had found Donee behind the trough, and the three were making a nettle basket together, and were very well acquainted already.
"Let the child stay till you come back from fishing, Oostogah," said the miller.
So Donee staid all the afternoon. Jenny and Betty rolled and shouted, and could not talk fast enough with delight because they had this new little girl to play with, and Thad. climbed all the trees, as Jenny said, to "show off," and Betty tumbled into the trough head over heels and was taken out dripping.
Donee was very quiet, but it was to her as if the end of the world had come, all this was so happy and wonderful. She never had had anybody to play with before.
Then, when Betty was carried in to be dried and dressed, there was, too, the bright, cheerful room, with a lovely blue carpet on the floor, and a white spread on the bed with fringe, and red dahlias that shone in the sun, putting their heads in at the window. Betty's mother did not scold when she took her wet clothes off, but said some funny things which made them laugh. She looked at Donee now and then, standing with her little hands clasped behind her back.
"Does your mother never wash or dress you, Donee?" said Betty.
"She is dead," said Donee.
Betty's mother did not say any more funny things after that. When she had finished dressing Betty, to the tying of her shoes, she called the little Indian girl up to her.
"What can you do?" she said. "Sew? Make moccasins?"
She had the pleasantest voice. Donee was not at all afraid. "I can sew. I can make baskets," she said. "I am going to make a basket for every one of you."
"Very well. You can have a tea-party, Jenny, out of doors." Then she opened a cupboard. "Here are the dishes," taking out a little box. "And bread, jam, milk, sugar, and candy."
"Candy!" cried Betty, rushing out to tell Thad.
"Candy? Hooray!" shouted Thad.
For there are no shops out in that wild country where a boy can run for a stick of lemon or gumdrops every time he gets a penny. It was very seldom that Thad. or Betty could have a taste of those red and white "bull's eyes" which their mother now took out of the jar in the locked cupboard. They knew she brought it out to please the little Indian girl, whose own mother was dead.
Jenny set the table for the tea-party under a big oak. There was a flat place on one of the round roots that rose out of the moss, which was the very thing for a table. So there she spread the little white and gold plates and cups and saucers, with the meat dish (every bit as large as your hand), in the middle, full of candy. The milk, of course, was put in the pot for coffee, and set on three dead leaves to boil; and Jenny allowed Donee to fill the jam dishes herself, with her own hands. Donee could hardly get her breath as she did it.
When they were all ready they sat down. The sun shone, and the wind was blowing, and the water of the mill-race flashed and gurgled as it went by, and a song-sparrow perched himself on the fence close to them and sang, and sang, just as if he knew what was going on.
"He wants to come to the party!" said Betty, and then they all laughed. Donee laughed too.
The shining plates just fitted into the moss, and there was a little pitcher, the round-bellied part of which was covered with sand, while the handle and top were, Jenny said, of solid gold; that was put in the middle of all.
Donee did not think it was like fairy-land or heaven, because she had never in her life heard of fairy-land or heaven. She had never seen anything but her own filthy hut, with its iron pot and wooden spoons.
When it was all over, the children's mother (Donee felt as if she was her mother too) called her in, and took out of that same cupboard a roll of the loveliest red calico.
"Now, Donee," she said, "if you can make yourself a dress of this I will give you this box," and she opened a box, just like Jenny's. Inside, packed in thin slips of paper, was a set of dishes; pure white, with the tiniest rose-bud in the middle of each; cups, saucers, meat-dish, coffee-pot, and all; and, below all, a pitcher, with sand on the brown bottom, but the top and handle of solid gold!
Donee went back to the hut, trotting along beside Oostogah, her roll of calico under her arm. The next day she cut it out into a slip and began to sew.
Oostogah was at work all day cutting down dead trees. When he came in at night, Donee said: "If you sold the land for much money, could we have a home like the miller's?"
Oostogah was as much astonished as if a chicken had asked him a question, but he said, "Yes."
"Would I be like Jenny and Betty?"
"You're a chief's daughter," grunted Oostogah.
One day in the next week she went down to the river far in the woods, and took a bath, combing her long straight black hair down her shoulders. Then she put on her new dress, and went down to the miller's house. It was all very quiet, for the children were not there, but their mother came to the door. She laughed out loud with pleasure when she saw Donee. The red dress was just the right color for her to wear with her dark skin and black hair. Her eyes were soft and shy, and her bare feet and arms (like most Indian women's) pretty enough to be copied in marble.
"You are a good child—you're a very good child! Here are the dishes. I wish the children were at home. Sit right down on the step now and eat a piece of pie."
But Donee could not eat the pie, her heart was so full.
"Hillo!" called the miller, when he saw her. "Why, what a nice girl you are to-day, Dony! Your brother's hard at work, eh? It will all come right, then."
Donee stood around for a long time, afraid to say what she wanted.
"What is it?" asked the miller's wife.
Donee managed to whisper, if she were to have a party the next day, could the children come to it? and their mother said: "Certainly, in the evening."
When the little girl ran down the hill, the miller said: "Seems as if't would be easy to make Christians out of them two."
"I'm going to do what I can for Donee," said the miller's wife.
It was not so easy for the little red-skinned girl to have a party, for she had neither jam nor bread, nor butter, not to mention candy. But she was up very early the next morning, and made tiny little cakes of corn, no bigger than your thumbnail, and she went to a hollow tree she knew of and got a cupful of honey, and brought some red haws, and heaps of nuts, hickory and chestnuts. When Oostogah had gone, she set out her little dishes under a big oak, and dressed herself in her lovely frock, though she knew the party could not begin for hours and hours. The brown cakes and honey, and scarlet haws, were in the white dishes, and the gold pitcher, with a big purple flower, was in the middle. Donee sat down and looked at it all. In a year or two Oostogah would build a house like the miller's, and she should have a blue carpet on the floor, and a white bed, and wear red frocks every day, like Betty.
Just then she heard voices talking. Oostogah had come back; he sat upon a log; and the trader, who came around once a year, stood beside him, a pack open at his feet. It was this peddler, Hawk, who was talking.
"I tell you, Oostogy, the miller's a fool. There's no new settlers coming here, and nobody wants your land. There's hundreds and thousands of acres beyond better than this. You'd better take my offer. Look at that suit!"
He held up short trousers of blue cloth worked with colored porcupine quills, and a scarlet mantle glittering with beads and gold fringe.
"I don't want it," grunted Oostogah. "Sell my land for big pile money."
"Oh, very well. I don't want to buy your land. There's thousands of acres to be had for the asking, but there's not such a dress as that in the United States. I had that dress made on purpose for you, Oostogy. I said: 'Make me a dress for the son of a great chief. The handsomest man'" (eying the lad from head to foot) "'that lives this side of the great water.'"
Oostogah grunted, but his eyes began to sparkle.
"Here now, Oostogy, just try it on to please me. I'd like to see you dressed like a chief for once."
Oostogah, nothing loth, dropped his dirty blanket, and was soon rigged in the glittering finery, while Hawk nodded in rapt admiration.
"There's not a man in the country, red-skin or pale-face, but would know you for the son of the great Denomah. Go look down in the creek, Oostogy."
Oostogah went, and came back, walking more slowly. He began to take off his mantle.
"There's a deputation from these Northern tribes going this winter to see the Great Father at Washington. If Oostogy had a proper dress he could go. But shall the son of Denomah come before the Great Father in a torn horse-blanket?"
"Your words are too many," said Oostogah. "I have made up my mind. I will sell you the land for the clothes."
Donee came up then, and stood directly before him, looking up at him. But she said nothing. It is not the habit of Indian women and children to speak concerning matters of importance.
Oostogah pushed her out of the way, and, with the trader, went into the hut to finish their bargain.
In an hour or two her brother came to Donee. He had his new clothes in a pack on his back. "Come," he said, pointing beyond the great river to the dark woods.
"We will come back here again, Oostogah?"
"No; we will never come back."
Donee went to the tree and looked down at the party she had made; at the little dishes with the rose on each. But she did not lift one of them up. She took off her pretty dress and laid it beside them, and, going to the hut, put on her old rags again. Then she came out and followed her brother, whose face was turned toward the great dark woods in the west.
When the miller's children came to the party that afternoon, a pig was lying on Donee's red dress, and the dishes were scattered and broken. But the hut was empty.
* * * * *
A year afterward, the miller came back from a long journey. After he had kissed and hugged his wife and little ones, he said: "You remember, wife, how Hawk cheated that poor Indian lad out of his land?"
"Yes; I always said it was the old story of the fox and the foolish raven over again."
"It was the old story of the white and the red man over again. But out in an Indian village I found Donee sick and starving."
The miller's wife jumped to her feet. The tears rushed to her eyes. "What did you do? What did you do?"
"Well, there wasn't but one thing to do, and I did that." He went out to the wagon and carried in the little Indian girl, and laid her on the bed.
"Poor child! Poor child! Where is Oostogah?"
The miller shook his head. "Don't ask any questions about him. The raven flew away to the woods, and was never heard of again. Better if that were the end of Oostogah."
Donee, opening her tired eyes, saw the blue carpet and the white bed where she lay, and the red dahlias shining in the sun and looking in at the window, and beside her were the children, and the children's mother smiling down on her with tears in her eyes.
THE PRIVATE THEATRICALS
By Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney
Saturday was a day of hammering, basting, draping, dressing, rehearsing, running from room to room. Upstairs, in Mrs. Green's garret, Leslie Goldthwaite and Dakie Thayne, with a third party never before introduced upon the stage, had a private practising; and at tea-time, when the great hall was cleared, they got up there with Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman, locked the doors, and in costume, with regular accompaniment of bell and curtain, the performance was repeated.
Dakie Thayne was stage-manager and curtain-puller; Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman represented audience, with clapping and stamping, and laughter that suspended both,—making as nearly the noise of two hundred as two could,—this being an essential part of the rehearsal in respect to the untried nerves of the debutant, which might easily be a little uncertain.
"He stands fire like a Yankee veteran."
"It's inimitable," said Sin Saxon, wiping the moist merriment from her eyes. "And your cap, Leslie! And that bonnet! And this unutterable old oddity of a gown! Who did contrive it all? and where did they come from? You'll carry off the glory of the evening. It ought to be the last."
"No, indeed," said Leslie. "Barbara Frietchie must be last, of course. But I'm so glad you think it will do. I hope they'll be amused."
"Amused! If you could only see your own face!"
"I see Sir Charles's, and that makes mine."
The new performer, you perceive, was an actor with a title.
That night's coach, driving up while the dress-rehearsal of the other tableaux was going on at the hall, brought Cousin Delight to the Green Cottage, and Leslie met her at the door.
Sunday morning was a pause and rest and hush of beauty and joy. They sat—Delight and Leslie—by their open window, where the smell of the lately harvested hay came over from the wide, sunshiny entrance of the great barn, and away beyond stretched the pine woods, and the hills swelled near in dusky evergreen, and indigo shadows, and lessened far down toward Winnipiseogee, to where, faint and tender and blue, the outline of little Ossipee peeped in between great shoulders so modestly,—seen only through the clearest air on days like this. Leslie's little table, with fresh white cover, held a vase of ferns and white convolvulus and beside this Cousin Delight's two books that came out always from the top of her trunk,—her Bible and her little "Daily Food." To-day the verses from Old and New Testaments were these:—"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way." "Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time."
They had a talk about the first,—"The steps,"—the little details,—not merely the general trend and final issue; if, indeed, these could be directed without the other.
"You always make me see things, Cousin Delight," Leslie said.
"It is very plain," Delight answered; "if people only would read the Bible as they read even a careless letter from a friend, counting each word of value, and searching for more meaning and fresh inference to draw out the most. One word often answers great doubts and askings that have troubled the world."
Afterward, they walked round by a still wood-path under the Ledge to the North Village, where there was a service. It was a plain little church, with unpainted pews; but the windows looked forth upon a green mountain-side, and whispers of oaks and pines and river-music crept in, and the breath of sweet water-lilies, heaped in a great bowl upon the communion-table of common stained cherry-wood, floated up and filled the place. The minister, a quiet, gray-haired man, stayed his foot an instant at that simple altar, before he went up the few steps to the desk. He had a sermon in his pocket from the text, "The hairs of your heads are all numbered." He changed it at the moment in his mind, and, when presently he rose to preach, gave forth, in a tone touched, through the fresh presence of that reminding beauty, with the very spontaneousness of the Master's own saying,—"Consider the lilies." And then he told them of God's momently thought and care.
There were scattered strangers, from various houses, among the simple rural congregation. Walking home through the pines again, Delight and Leslie and Dakie Thayne found themselves preceded and followed along the narrow way. Sin Saxon and Frank Scherman came up and joined them when the wider openings permitted.
Two persons just in front were commenting upon the sermon.
"Very fair for a country parson," said a tall, elegant-looking man, whose broad, intellectual brow was touched by dark hair slightly frosted, and whose lip had the curve that betokens self-reliance and strong decision,—"very fair. All the better for not flying too high. Narrow, of course. He seems to think the Almighty has nothing grander to do than to finger every little cog of the tremendous machinery of the universe,—that he measures out the ocean of his purposes as we drop a liquid from a phial. To me it seems belittling the Infinite."
"I don't know whether it is littleness or greatness, Robert, that must escape minutiae," said his companion, apparently his wife. "If we could reach to the particles, perhaps we might move the mountains."
"We never agree upon this, Margie. We won't begin again. To my mind, the grand plan of things was settled ages ago,—the impulses generated that must needs work on. Foreknowledge and intention, doubtless: in that sense the hairs were numbered. But that there is a special direction and interference to-day for you and me—well, we won't argue, as I said; but I never can conceive it so; and I think a wider look at the world brings a question to all such primitive faith."
The speakers turned down a side-way with this, leaving the ledge path and their subject to our friends. Only to their thoughts at first; but presently Cousin Delight said, in a quiet tone, to Leslie, "That doesn't account for the steps, does it?"
"I am glad it can't," said Leslie.
Dakie Thayne turned a look toward Leslie, as if he would gladly know of what she spoke,—a look in which a kind of gentle reverence was strangely mingled with the open friendliness. I cannot easily indicate to you the sort of feeling with which the boy had come to regard this young girl, just above him in years and thought and in the attitude which true womanhood, young or old, takes toward man. He had no sisters; he had been intimately associated with no girl-companions; he had lived with his brother and an uncle and a young aunt, Rose. Leslie Goldthwaite's kindness had drawn him into the sphere of a new and powerful influence,—something different in thought and purpose from the apparent unthought about her; and this lifted her up in his regard and enshrined her with a sort of pure sanctity. He was sometimes really timid before her, in the midst of his frank chivalry.
"I wish you'd tell me," he said suddenly, falling back with her as the path narrowed again. "What are the 'steps?'"
"It was a verse we found this morning,—Cousin Delight and I," Leslie answered; and as she spoke the color came up full in her cheeks, and her voice was a little shy and tremulous. "'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.' That one word seemed to make one certain. 'Steps,'—not path, nor the end of it; but all the way." Somehow she was quite out of breath as she finished.
Meantime Sin Saxon and Frank had got with Miss Goldthwaite, and were talking too.
"Set spinning," they heard Sin Saxon say, "and then let go. That was his idea. Well! Only it seems to me there's been especial pains taken to show us it can't be done. Or else, why don't they find out perpetual motion? Everything stops after a while, unless—I can't talk theologically, but I mean all right—you hit it again."
"You've a way of your own of putting things, Asenath," said Frank Scherman—with a glance that beamed kindly and admiringly upon her and "her way,"—"but you've put that clear to me as nobody else ever did. A proof set in the very laws themselves,—momentum that must lessen and lose itself with the square of the distance. The machinery cavil won't do."
"Wheels; but a living spirit within the wheels," said Cousin Delight.
"Every instant a fresh impulse; to think of it so makes it real, Miss Goldthwaite,—and grand and awful." The young man spoke with a strength in the clear voice that could be so light and gay.
"And tender, too. 'Thou layest Thine hand upon me,'" said Delight Goldthwaite.
Sin Saxon was quiet; her own thought coming back upon her with a reflective force, and a thrill at her heart at Frank Scherman's words. Had these two only planned tableaux and danced Germans together before?
Dakie Thayne walked on by Leslie Goldthwaite's side, in his happy content touched with something higher and brighter through that instant's approach and confidence. If I were to write down his thought as he walked, it would be with phrase and distinction peculiar to himself and to the boy-mind,—"It's the real thing with her; it don't make a fellow squirm like a pin put out at a caterpillar. She's good; but she isn't pious!"
This was the Sunday that lay between the busy Saturday and Monday. "It is always so wherever Cousin Delight is," Leslie Goldthwaite said to herself, comparing it with other Sundays that had gone. Yet she too, for weeks before, by the truth that had come into her own life and gone out from it, had been helping to make these moments possible. She had been shone upon, and had put forth; henceforth she should scarcely know when the fruit was ripening or sowing itself anew, or the good and gladness of it were at human lips.