BY Clara Ingram Judson
ILLUSTRATED BY Frances White
THE BROKEN DOLL
DON'T CRY OVER SPILLED SUGAR
HELPING THE ROBINS
MARY JANE PLAYS SCHOOL
AUNT EFFIE COMES TO VISIT
KEWPIE AND THE WASHING
JUNIOR'S SHOWER BATH
LEARNING TO SEW
MAKING READY FOR THE PICNIC
THE PICNIC UP CLEARWATER
THE PAPER DOLL SHOW
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
A LETTER AND A TRIP
Her little fists were clinched and even her perky plaid hair ribbon seemed to show amazement
"Here's one that's me!" exclaimed Mary Jane suddenly
She sat down on the biggest rock close by the edge of the creek
There's no need to tell of all the good times at that party
THE BROKEN DOLL
Mary Jane stood on the curbstone and stared into the middle of the street. Her face was white with fright and the tears which had not as yet come were close to her big blue eyes. Her little fists were clinched and even her perky plaid hair ribbon seemed to show amazement.
And wasn't it enough to make any little girl stare? Her big, beautiful doll, the one that came at Christmas time, lay crushed and broken in the middle of the street! Its glossy brown hair matted in the dust; its dainty pink dress torn and dirty and its great brown eyes crushed to powder!
For a full minute Mary Jane stared at the wreck that had been her doll. Then she turned and ran screaming toward the house.
Mrs. Merrill heard her and met her at the front steps.
"Mary Jane! Dear child!" she cried, "what is the matter? Tell mother what has happened!"
"My doll! My beautifulest doll!" sobbed Mary Jane, "my Marie Georgianna is all run over!"
"Surely not, surely not, Mary Jane," said her mother as she picked up the little girl and sat down, with her on her lap, on the porch steps, "dolls don't get run over."
"My doll did," said Mary Jane positively, "see?"
Mrs. Merrill looked out into the street and there, sure enough, was the wreck of the doll.
"Tell me how it happened, dear," said Mrs. Merrill and she gathered her little girl tighter in her arms as she spoke for she knew that if a doll had been run over, Mary Jane herself had not missed an accident by so very much for the doll and the little girl were always close together.
Mary Jane wiped her eyes on her mother's handkerchief, snugged cozily in the comfortable arms and told her story.
"I was going over to play with Junior like you said I could," she began (Junior was the little neighbor boy who lived across the street in the big white house), "and just as I got into the middle of the street I heard a big, big noisy 'toot-t-t-t-t' way down by Fifth Street—and you know, mother" (and here Mary Jane sat up straight) "that you always told me if an automobile was as far away as Fifth Street it was all right—so I went on across. But this automobile didn't just come; it hurried fast, oh, so very fast and by the time I was half way across the road it was so close I just turned around and ran back to the curbstone and I was in such a hurry I guess I must have dropped my Marie Georgianna!"
"And the automobile ran over her, poor dolly," finished mother, with a thrill of fear as she realized Mary Jane's narrow escape. Then she wiped off the teary blue eyes and smilingly said, "Listen, Mary Jane, and I'll tell you a secret."
"A secret about a doll?" asked Mary Jane eagerly.
"A secret about a doll," replied mother. "Marie Georgianna has a twin."
"Not a really truly twin?" demanded Mary Jane and she sat up straight and opened her eyes wide. "A really, truly, for surely enough twin?"
"Yes, she has," said mother nodding her head emphatically, "a really, truly, for surely enough twin—I saw her down at the store only yesterday and I think we'll have to go down town and bring her home, don't you think so?"
"But how'll we go so early?" asked Mary Jane, for she knew that mother always liked to do her morning work before they went on errands.
"I think father is still here," replied mother; "you smile up your face and run around to the garage. I think you'll find him there working on his car. If you do, tell him all about what happened and tell him he's going to mend your doll by finding her twin!"
Mary Jane slipped down from her mother's lap and hurried around the house toward the garage. As soon as she was out of sight, Mrs. Merrill went out to the street and rescued the wreck of the doll from the dusty road. Yes, Mary Jane was right when she said that the doll was all gone—it would take considerable work to put even the dress in order and the doll itself was broken beyond all mending. Hastily Mrs. Merrill pulled off the dirty dress and dropped the doll into the covered trash basket where Mary Jane would not see it again and be reminded of the accident.
"What are we going to do about that speeding on our road?" demanded father as he hurried up to the back porch just as the lid was back on the trash basket. "Did you hear about Mary Jane's narrow escape?"
"We're going to do this about it," said mother positively, "Mary Jane isn't to go over to Junior's again by herself. If she has to go over, one of us will take her. And now the important thing is to find Marie Georgianna's twin. And Mary Jane," she added as the little girl came running toward the steps, "this twin of Marie Georgianna's is afraid of automobiles, very afraid of them, and she doesn't like to cross the street unless some grown up person is with her."
"That's a good thing," said Mary Jane with a big sigh, "because I don't like to either. Next time I go over to Junior's I'm not going over. And what shall I name Marie Georgianna's twin, mother?"
"We'll decide that later," laughed mother; "you must hurry quick and wash your hands and face and slip on a clean frock so you can go to the store with father."
It doesn't take long to tidy a little girl who wants to help so it wasn't five minutes before Mary Jane was sitting, clean and tidy and straight, beside her father in the front seat of his automobile. She loved to get in while the car was still in the garage and then, when he backed it out, to hold the wheel while he locked the doors and climbed back into the driver's seat.
The Merrills lived in a charming home on the edge of a small city; a home surrounded by trees and garden and plenty of space for playing; and at the same time, only about ten minutes' ride from the stores in the center of the city. So a very short ride brought Mr. Merrill and Mary Jane to the store where Marie Georgianna's twin was to be found. In the meantime, Mrs. Merrill had telephoned to the store and had told the saleswoman in the doll department just which doll to have ready for Mary Jane.
When Mr. Merrill and his little girl walked into the toy department, there, with her arms outstretched in greeting, was a beautiful big doll. For a moment Mary Jane said nothing—the doll was so like her dear, broken-to-pieces Marie Georgianna that she could hardly believe her eyes! She walked up close to the counter; looked hard at the doll and then exclaimed, "It is! It is, Daddah! It is a twin just as mother said it was! And is it for me to take home?"
Mr. Merrill assured her that the doll was to go home with them and then he asked about clothes. "Are you sure you have enough at home? Were the clothes spoiled too?"
"While mother was washing me ready to come down town, she told me she could fix the dress and Marie Georgianna didn't wear her hat when she was run over," said Mary Jane, "so I guess her twin doesn't need anything new." But she looked so regretfully at the cases of pretty clothes that father bought a pink parasol—"just for fun" he said.
"She doesn't want to wear just hand-me-down clothes of her sister's even if she is a twin," he explained, "and I always like to buy doll clothes for little girls who don't tease for new things. But there's one thing sure about this parasol," he added, "it's not to go over to Junior's!"
"It won't!" laughed Mary Jane happily, "because I won't and parasols can't go places by themselves!"
All the way back home Mary Jane sat very still and held the new doll close up to her. Mr. Merrill thought perhaps she was thinking about the accident and tried to get her to talking—that shows how little even good fathers understand! Mary Jane wasn't thinking about any accident, dear me no! She was naming her doll.
Just as they got out of the car at their own front walk, she announced solemnly, "I've named her Marie Georgiannamore because a twin is more than one."
DON'T CRY OVER SPILLED SUGAR
All the rest of the day after Marie Georgiannamore came into the family, Mary Jane played dolls. Mother helped her fix a play house out on the front porch in the warm sunshine and there Mary Jane and her family had a very happy time. Evidently Marie Georgiannamore liked her new home for she seemed very content with the other members of Mary Jane's numerous family. There was the sailor doll and the rag doll, Mary Jane, Jr., and small bears and dolls and kewpies too many to count. And of course each doll had its own chair and bed so there was quite a household out on that sunny front porch.
When father came home in the evening he helped carry in all the furniture and in the morning he helped move it back again.
"I tell you, Mary Jane, these moving days keep us husky and strong, don't they?" he said as he picked up three chairs and two beds at one time.
Mary Jane laughed and, just to show that she was strong too, carried out three doll beds (to be sure they were for the very littlest, two-for-a-nickel dolls but then they were three beds just the same) and a washing machine at one time! Then she thanked her father for his good help and he went to work and she settled down for a morning's house keeping.
About ten o'clock Mrs. Merrill came to the front door.
"Do you know any little girl who is big enough to run down to the grocery and get me some sugar?" she asked.
"'Deed, yes, mother!" answered Mary Jane promptly, "I can bring you ten-fifty pounds! See how strong I am?" And she doubled up her arm as she had seen her big, basketball-playing sister do to show her muscle. "See? And I could move more beds at one time than Daddah could this morning."
"Well, you are strong!" exclaimed mother admiringly; "you have more muscle than you need for sugar getting because I want only three pounds this time. I'm making cake and pies and cookies and I've run out of sugar and don't want to leave my work to get more. Can you leave your family now?" she added, for she was always particular to treat Mary Jane's duties or play as politely as she expected Mary Jane to treat hers.
"Yes," replied Mary Jane, "I can go this very minute, mother, because all my children are taking their morning nap. Do I have to dress up?"
"Not a bit!" laughed mother; "just go down to Shaffer's at the corner then you won't have to cross any street. Here is the money and here is the paper that tells what you want—three pounds of granulated sugar. Thank you for going, dear."
Mary Jane tucked the slip of paper and the money into her pocket under her handkerchief, kissed her mother good-by and ran down the walk.
It didn't take long to do the errand because she ran right by her friend Doris's house without even stopping to call "Hu-uu-oo!" as she usually did; and because Mr. Shaffer seemed to have been expecting a call for three pounds of sugar—he had the parcel all ready.
On the way back Mary Jane looked longingly into Doris's house and there, sure enough, her little playmate was standing on the front porch.
"Come on in!" called Doris.
"Can't now," answered Mary Jane; "I'm doing an errand for mother, a real important errand," and she held the package of sugar tightly in her arms and walked straight along.
Now whether the paper in the bag was not very good to begin with; or whether Mary Jane held the parcel too tightly or what—it would be hard to say—but—Mary Jane had not gone five steps past Doris's house before she felt a funny little movement in the bag under her arm. She looked and what do you suppose she found had happened? That sugar bag had sprung a leak. Yes, a really for sure leak and the sugar was dribbling, dribbling down to the sidewalk! Quick as a flash Mary Jane turned the bag other side up and stopped the leak but, even so, there was a little white mound of sugar there on the sidewalk.
"I wonder what I ought to do now?" she said thoughtfully. "Should I pick up the sugar and put it back into the bag?" She tried that, but she soon found that sugar is very slippery. She could pick only a few grains at a time and even some of those few slid out of her hand before she could tuck them into the leak in the bag. It was very puzzling. She bent low over the pile of sugar and in that way she was hidden from the houses by the high hedge that grew along the walk.
"I wonder, I wonder—" she said, and then she noticed that she had company. Two busy ants had found that pile of sugar and were moving it away as fast as ever they could. "This must be moving day for them too," said Mary Jane laughingly. "I wonder where they are going? I guess I'd better see."
She sat down beside the pile, being very careful to hold her bag of sugar leaky-side up, and watched and watched. If you have ever seen ants moving grains of sugar you know how very interesting it is and you won't wonder that she forgot all about taking the parcel home to her mother. And there is no telling when she would have remembered if she hadn't, just then, heard her mother's voice.
"Mary Jane! Mary Jane! Mary Jane!" called Mrs. Merrill.
"Coming, mother," answered Mary Jane and she scrambled to her feet and hurried home. "'Cuse me, mother, for being so long," she said breathlessly, "but it leaks and please may I go back by Doris's and see the ants?"
Mrs. Merrill took the bursting bag and thanked Mary Jane for the errand. Her mind was on her delayed baking and she thought Mary Jane meant to go to see Doris's aunt. So, without a question, she replied, "Yes, you may, dear, but don't stay too long." And so Mary Jane ran back to her ants.
By careful watching she found where they were going. They had a whole colony of tiny holes out in the grass plot between the sidewalk and the curbing and they seemed to be moving the sugar into these holes.
"I think I ought to help them, they're such little things," said Mary Jane to herself, "and I think Doris would want to help them too." She went to Doris's gate and called and her little friend came out to watch ants too.
"See what they are doing?" explained Mary Jane. "They're moving the sugar into their pantry and we ought to help them like my father helps me when I move my doll house things."
But somehow the plan which sounded so well, didn't work. Maybe the ants didn't understand that help was being given them; for really, the more the little girls "helped" the more scurrying and confusion there was in that company of ants. And even when Mary Jane picked up a grain of sugar and actually dropped it into a hole ready for them to put away, that didn't seem to be the right thing either!
Just then, when the little girls were getting tired of bending over so long and trying to do something that didn't work, the noon whistles began to blow, and, a minute later, Mr. Merrill came riding by in his car.
"Do you know where I could find two little girls to ride around to the garage with me?" he asked as he pulled up by the curbing.
"Right here they are," cried Mary Jane and she and Doris climbed into the car in a jiffy.
"What were you people doing there on the sidewalk?" asked father as they drove around the corner.
"Helping ants store sugar in their holes but they didn't like it," said Mary Jane disgustedly.
"I don't blame them," laughed Mr. Merrill. "When we get into the house I'll show you how those holes are made and then you'll understand why the ants didn't want help." So Doris came into the house too and Mr. Merrill got down a big book and showed the two girls pictures of ant houses and told them all about how ants make their homes and store their food.
"My, but I'm glad that sugar bag leaked!" sighed Mary Jane when the big book was finally shut up and put away, "because I had fun watching the ants; and I was out front ready for a ride; and now I've had a story—all because sugar spilled! Mother, is lunch ready? May Doris stay? We're hungry!"
HELPING THE ROBINS
All the afternoon after she learned about ants and their ways, Mary Jane was very quiet. Mrs. Merrill thought perhaps she was disappointed because Doris had had to go home right after lunch so she tried to be very sociable and kind to make up for the absent playmate.
"How would you like to make a new dress for Marie Georgiannamore?" she asked.
"Make it now, instead of taking my nap?" asked Mary Jane who sometimes disliked the hour of quiet that her mother had her take every afternoon. Of course she didn't really nap, that is, sleep; girls as big as she didn't need to Mrs. Merrill thought. But she did have to stay quietly in her own room and look at pictures or rest which ever she wished to do. Usually Mary Jane enjoyed the hour but sometimes she wished she could play straight through the day.
"Oh, no," replied Mrs. Merrill smiling, "you will want to take your rest the same as you always do. But when you get up, then we'll make Marie Georgiannamore a new dress."
"And while we're making it," asked Mary Jane, "will I have to stay in the house?"
"Why, of course, Mary Jane," replied Mrs. Merrill, "how funny you are! You wouldn't enjoy my making a doll dress while you were out doors, would you?"
"No-o-o," said Mary Jane doubtfully, "maybe I wouldn't. Only I 'pect I'd like it after it was done."
"Well," said Mrs. Merrill laughingly, "if you don't want a doll dress any more than that, you don't want one very badly—that's certain! You run along up to your room now and then, after you're dressed, I'll take my bag of darning out on the front porch—I think it's plenty warm enough to-day—and you may play in the yard. Would you like that, dear?"
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Mary Jane, "that's just what I want to do. And may I take the ant book upstairs?"
Mrs. Merrill said she could and helped her pull the big book out from the shelves.
"If this is what you are going to look at," she said as she handed the book to Mary Jane at the foot of the stairs, "better fix some pillows real comfy fashion in the window seat where the light is good." And Mary Jane promised she would.
The book proved more than usually interesting and Mrs. Merrill had to call the third time before Mary Jane heard her and realized that her hour was up.
"Wash your face and put on your pink smock, dear," called Mrs. Merrill, "and then come out to the porch. There's a robin in the front yard and you'll like to watch him."
Mary Jane scrambled her very fastest, which was pretty fast as you can guess, and in about three minutes was out on the porch inquiring for the robin.
There he was, big as life and busy as could be hunting his afternoon tea.
"Doesn't he know it isn't time for dinner till Daddah comes home?" asked Mary Jane.
"He doesn't pay much attention to time," laughed Mrs. Merrill, "he likes to eat all the day long. It makes no difference to him whether he eats in the morning or afternoon."
Mary Jane watched him curiously as he pecked and dug and then she suddenly exclaimed, "But he didn't eat it, mother! I know he didn't eat it! I saw him fly away with it!"
"Then I expect he's carrying it to his babies," said Mrs. Merrill.
"Where are his babies?" demanded Mary Jane as she sat down on the porch step to hear more.
"I'm sure I don't know, dear," said her mother. "I didn't notice which direction he went, did you?"
"Yes, he flew around toward the back yard," answered Mary Jane quickly, "I saw him. Does his whole family live in a nest like you've told me about or does he have a hole and a city and everything like the ants in the book?'
"His whole family live in one nest," replied Mrs. Merrill, "the father robin and the another robin and all the little robins—sometimes several of them. It's pretty crowded perhaps, while the robin babies are growing, but they like it. I expect if you go around to the back yard and watch, you may see what tree Mr. Robin goes to with his worms. That will tell you what tree his nest is in."
Mary Jane ran around to the back yard and that was the last Mrs. Merrill saw of her till she called her to get ready for dinner some time later.
Mr. Merrill was late to dinner, but when he came Mary Jane asked him all the questions that her mother had been unable to answer.
"Wait a minute!" exclaimed he. "Where did you see this robin that you're talking about?"
"In the front yard and in the back yard," said Mary Jane, "both of them."
"Then I'll venture to guess that it's the very same robin whose nest I discovered this morning," said Mr. Merrill. "I meant to tell you about it but was in such a hurry to get away I forgot."
"Oh, did you see his nest?" exclaimed Mary Jane excitedly; "his really truly for sure nest, Daddah?"
"That I did," replied her father, "and I'll show it to you."
"Let's go now," cried Mary Jane. "Won't you please excuse us, mother?" And she slipped down from her chair.
"Too late now," said her father, "might as well climb back and finish your dinner. You can't find a bird's nest after dark—and you can see that it's almost dark now. You wait till morning and I'll show you that nest first thing."
"As soon as I'm dressed, Daddah?" asked Mary Jane.
"Before you're dressed," promised her father, with a twinkle in his eye, "you just see!"
Mary Jane was so excited she could hardly go to sleep that night and Mrs. Merrill laughingly said that her dreams would likely be a circus of ants and robins. But she must have been mistaken, because little girls who wake up as bright and early as Mary Jane did that next day, don't waste their nights a-dreaming.
"Daddah!" she called to her father in a loud whisper, "are you waked up? Daddah!"
"Um-m," said her father sleepily, "what is it?'
"Did you forget the nest," asked the little girl, "it's light now."
"To be sure," replied her father, who by now was wide awake; "put on your slippers and come over by my bed and look."
Mary Jane reached down from her bed, picked up her dainty slippers and put them on; then she threw back the covers and hurried over to her father's bed.
At the back of the Merrill home, upstairs, was a broad sleeping porch, sheltered by wide eaves and completely screened. There, each in his or her own little bed, father and mother and Alice and Mary Jane slept every night. Of course each had their own room in the house, with a comfortable bed for daytime rests, and stormy nights and the like; but almost every night in the year all four of them slept out of doors. Just behind the sleeping porch was an old apple tree and it was to this tree that Mr. Merrill now pointed.
Mary Jane looked and looked and then, suddenly, she saw the nest! Set way back among the leaves it was and on it was sitting the mother bird.
"I expect the father bird is getting breakfast for the family," said Mr. Merrill, "and the mother is keeping the babies warm till they have something to eat. You better get dressed now, little girl," he added, "but you may come up here after breakfast and I guess that, if you watch quietly, you can get a glimpse of the babies."
As quickly as breakfast was over, Mary Jane hurried back up the stairs to the sleeping porch and, sure enough, the mother bird and the father bird were both gone and those cunning baby robins—four of them—were stretching way out of the nest! Mary Jane almost gasped at first she was that surprised; but she didn't call out, no, indeed! She kept very still and watched—and watched. And the longer she looked the more certain she became that something was wrong.
"They do open their mouths so funny," she thought to herself. "I know, I just know they wouldn't open their mouths so wide if something wasn't wrong."
She thought a few minutes and then an idea occurred to her. The robin babies were thirsty—of course!
"I know how I felt that time we took too long a ride and I got thirsty," she thought, "and their mother don't know and their father isn't here either. I'll just have to get them a drink!"
But how to get a drink to four baby robins in the old apple tree—that was a problem that Mary Jane couldn't figure out all at once. But she didn't give up, no, sir! She thought and thought, and then she spied the hose lying in the back yard.
The very thing!
Quick as a minute, she ran down the stairs, out the kitchen door and over to the hose. Yes, just as she had hoped, it was attached and ready for use. She ran up to the house wall, turned on the water (it took all her strength, but she didn't mind that), took one good look up at the apple tree to see just where the nest was, and then turned the hose that way.
But something didn't seem just right. Instead of liking it, and being very still because they were getting a good cold drink, those stupid robin babies chirped and cried and acted far from pleased.
"I know," thought Mary Jane, "they want it like rain," and she turned the hose nozzle high and straight so that the water would come down on the top of the nest.
But that wasn't any better or even as good as the first try; for the water, instead of coming down on the apple tree, came straight and wet onto Mary Jane herself! She was so startled that she screamed and dropped the hose without a thought of the robins she had meant to help.
And then there was a commotion! Mr. Merrill, who had come home for some papers he had forgotten, came running around the house; Father Robin darted out from the hedge and made straight for his nest; Mother Robin hurried up from the pine tree in Doris's yard and Mrs. Merrill, tea towel still in hand, ran out from the back porch.
"What ever is the matter?" she cried.
"I was just giving the baby robins a drink," sputtered Mary Jane, "and they didn't seem to like it!"
Mrs. Merrill gathered her into her arms, wetness and all, and held her close. "I thought something had happened to my little girl," she said. "You must come in and get dry clothes on, dear; then I'll tell you more about the babies and you'll understand why they don't like too much water."
"And I'll tell you something," said father. "If you like to learn about creatures and everything that grows, you meet me here at the back door step at five o'clock this afternoon and I'll tell you a secret."
"Oh, goody!" cried Mary Jane, as she clapped her wet hands. "Can't you tell it to me now?"
"I should say not!" said father importantly, "it's a secret! You'll have to wait till five o'clock!" And he hurried off to his work leaving Mary Jane to a day of wondering what might be coming—a pleasant sort of wondering, for father's secrets were always jolly ones.
Mary Jane thought that five o'clock would never come—never! She looked at the clock and looked at the clock and she asked mother and Alice to tell her the time so as to be sure she herself wasn't mistaken in what the clock said. But finally lunch time was passed, and rest time, and then Mary Jane knew it wouldn't be very long till five o'clock.
"Now, I'm going to dress for my secret," she said when her rest was finished.
"That's just what I came to see you about," said Mrs. Merrill, who came into Mary Jane's room at that minute, "you'd better put on this little dress." And she held up a little, old, dark blue morning dress—not at all the sort of dress that a little girl would wear to an afternoon secret, Mary Jane was sure of that.
"Why, mother!" exclaimed the little girl, "you don't mean me to wear that!"
"I surely do," said Mrs. Merrill, pleasantly; "it's just the right kind of a dress for this secret."
"But Daddah's secret is a nice secret," said Mary Jane positively.
"His secrets always are," agreed her mother.
"And nice secrets ought to have nice dresses," said Mary Jane.
"Nice secrets ought to have dresses that belong to them," corrected Mrs. Merrill. "We don't talk about things that are decided," reminded Mrs. Merrill. "Put on the blue dress and come downstairs, Mary Jane. I'm sure you will be glad—when father comes home."
So Mary Jane put on the blue dress, but she wasn't very happy about it; she felt sure, certain all the time that she was dressing, that Daddah would be disappointed when he saw her. And she began to wonder if the secret was so very wonderful after all; it didn't sound so wonderful if an old dress went with it—in the afternoon!
But even though she was disappointed and a bit doubtful, she went down to the front porch and sat on the step where she could see father the minute he turned the corner of Fifth Street.
"Isn't this a fine day to be out of doors!" exclaimed Mrs. Merrill, contentedly. "See Mr. Robin out there, digging away for his family? He has a hard time hunting worms in the grass. I expect he wishes we had a newly dug garden around this place." Mary Jane looked up indifferently, just in time to see a twinkle in her mother's eye. Did the twinkle have anything to do with the secret? Mary Jane wondered.
"What would he do with a garden?" she asked.
"Get worms out of it," answered Mrs. Merrill.
"But isn't he getting worms out of the yard?" asked Mary Jane, looking out to where the robin was industriously pecking at the ground.
"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Merrill, "of course he is; but see how he has to work! Now if that yard was all dug up nicely for a garden, the worms would be plain to see and all he would have to do would be to pick them out. Think how much easier that would be."
Mary Jane didn't answer. She looked out at the robin, but someway, she couldn't quite take an interest in his affairs; she was too busy thinking about her own secret and how disappointed Daddah would be when he saw that old dress.
And then, just as she was going to ask the time, she spied him coming around the corner. And she forgot all about dresses and remembered only the secret. Down the steps, along the walk and out to the street she ran, reaching the curbstone just as he pulled the car alongside.
"Hop in and ride around," he said, gayly. And then, as she climbed in he added, "Lucky you put that dress on. I forgot to tell you to be ready with something old. Now that you are we won't have to waste time changing."
Mary Jane stared. But seeing he seemed pleased, she said nothing about all her worries over the old dress.
"Do we have the secret in the car?" she asked.
"Dear me, no!" laughed father, "it's plain to see that you haven't guessed what it is. We'll put the car in the garage and then, while I slip on some old clothes to match yours, you may open that bundle in the back, there. It's part of the secret."
Mary Jane peered over the back of her seat at the queer looking bundle in the car. It was about as tall as she was, she decided, and bigger around than her two hands could reach and wrapped in brown paper and tied three times with very heavy twine. Now what could that be?
Father set her down in the garage and handed her the package and then hurried off into the house.
She tried to pull the strings off but they wouldn't pull; there seemed to be a bunch of the wrapping paper at one end and a hump inside the parcel at the other. So she decided to run in for mother's scissors.
But just as she got to the back steps, she met father coming out—it hadn't taken him long to get into old clothes, that was certain.
"Never mind about the scissors, Blunderbuss," said he laughingly, using a name he sometimes called her, "I'll take my knife."
Just three slashes of the sharp knife and the strings were off. Mary Jane opened the paper with shaking fingers, she was that excited. And what do you suppose she found?
A garden set—a spade and a hoe and a rake all just the right size for a little girl to work with and so pretty and clean and new that Mary Jane knew that they had been purchased on purpose for her.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands and dancing around, "it's a garden! I know the secret now! It's a garden! That's what mother was trying to make me guess and I never thought! May I have one all my very ownest own?"
"That's the secret," admitted Mr. Merrill, "and the garden is for you only—just as long as you take care of it. Now you take your tools and I'll take mine and we'll see where this garden is to be."
They paraded out of the garage and over to where the last summer's garden had been. "I've been meaning to get at this for a week," said Mr. Merrill, "but I hate to work alone. If you'll help me, we can have the finest garden ever. Now where do you want yours to be?"
Mary Jane looked around thoughtfully. There was the rose bed—she surely couldn't have that, it belonged to mother. And the asparagus bed, it was already showing shoots of green. "I guess I'll take next door to the rose bed," she decided promptly, "because I like roses. Can I dig it all myself?"
"Pretty soon," said father. "I dig first with the big spade. Then you dig with yours. Then I hoe it—I'll show you how when we're ready; and you hoe with your hoe." And he set to work.
"Then do the things just grow?" asked Mary Jane as she watched him.
"Not till we plant them," answered her father. "What are you going to have?"
"Worms for the robin so he won't have to work so hard," said Mary Jane promptly, "and a lot of flowers."
"I guess you won't have to worry about the worms," laughed Mr. Merrill as he turned over a big spadeful of earth, "Mr. Robin will find plenty—see? I'll make a guess that he's watching us from the apple tree this very minute! Suppose you run into the garage and look on the table there. You'll find packages of seeds. Bring them out here and we'll see which you want in your bed."
While Mr. Merrill gave the earth its heavy spading, Mary Jane got the bright colored seed packages and spread them out on the sidewalk. Then as she spelled out the letters, her father told her what each package contained. Lettuce and radishes and nasturtiums and carrots and candy-tuft and—
"Here's one that's me!" exclaimed Mary Jane suddenly. She knew a very few words and her own name was one of them.
"I thought you would find that," said Mr. Merrill, "so I bought that on purpose for you. It's Marygold and you may have it in your bed, if you like."
By that time the earth in her garden was turned and Mary Jane set to work spading and hoeing just as hard as ever she could. She worked on one side and her father worked on the other and very soon the earth was ready for planting.
"Now," said Mr. Merrill, "while I loosen the earth around mother's rose bushes, you make your trenches for the seeds." And he showed her just how it was to be done.
Mary Jane never felt so big, and grown-up and important in her life as when she made those trenches with her bright new hoe. She worked and worked till they were neat and even and exactly right. Then her father stopped his digging and together they opened three packages and planted the seeds. The nasturtiums went in front, because they were the smallest plants, father said; then the Marygolds that grow so straight and tall; and then, because father said every garden should have something useful as well as something beautiful, back of the Marygolds, a row of early lettuce.
Just as the last bit of earth was patted down over the last row of seeds, Mrs. Merrill called from the back door that dinner was about ready.
"And we're hungry enough to eat it, aren't we, Mary Jane?" asked Mr. Merrill. "You put away your tools and run in and wash while I tend to my big ones and get myself ready. Let's see who's the quickest!"
How Mary Jane did hustle! She set her new tools in the far corner of the garage and then ran skipping into the house.
"Scrub your hands good, dear," said her mother as she hurried through the kitchen. "Wash your face and then run upstairs and get your blue smock and plaid ribbon. Dark blue dresses are the thing for gardening, but we like gay frocks for dinner, don't we, sweetheart?"
And yet, with all that washing and dressing, Mary Jane reached the table first—that just shows how fast she could hurry when she was racing with father. Or maybe it was because she was so hungry. For she had three big helpings of her favorite mashed potatoes—think of that!
"First thing in the morning, know what I'm going to do?" she announced as she ate the last bite, "I'm going to get Doris to see my garden, she'll like my flowers, I know."
"You can get Doris," laughed her father, "but don't expect flowers in the morning. It will take them ten days to peep out of the ground. But don't you worry, you'll like to show Doris the garden before it grows."
"I will," replied Mary Jane, "I'll do it tomorrow."
MARY JANE PLAYS SCHOOL
"Mother, may I go over and get Doris this morning?" asked Mary Jane as she finished her breakfast. "I want her to come see my garden right away!"
"Not to-day," answered Mrs. Merrill. "Doris has the chicken pox so you will have to stay home for a while," And then she was called to the telephone so she didn't notice that Mary Jane ran straight for the window that looked out over Doris's yard.
"I think that's funny that I can't go over and see Doris's chickens," she said to herself rebelliously as she peered through the window. "I'm going to look, and look and look till I see them anyway, so there! And then I'll telephone to Doris." She curled up on the window seat and watched and watched her neighbor's yard but not a sign of a chicken did she see. "I should think she would have to feed them now," she said to her big sister who was hurrying off to school.
Sister Alice didn't quite understand what Mary Jane said and was in too big a hurry to stop and inquire so she merely replied hastily, "Maybe you're too late for breakfast," and ran on to school. So Mary Jane still sat at that window and still watched for chickens. Finally when her legs were beginning to get pricky and she was about ready to give up, her mother came into the room.
"Where does she keep it?" asked Mary Jane.
"Where does who keep what?" replied Mrs. Merrill, "and what is my little girl doing all this time?"
"I'm watching to see Doris's box of chickens," said Mary Jane, "do you know where it is?"
"Box of chickens!" exclaimed Mrs. Merrill in amazement, and then she suddenly realized how Mary Jane had misunderstood her. "Doris has no box of chickens, dear, she has chicken POX—it's a sickness and Doris will have to stay in the house for a few days."
"Oh-h-h," said Mary Jane slowly, "so that's why I can't play with her."
"That's why," agreed Mrs. Merrill, "and now what are you going to do?"
"I guess I'll play on the porch."
"I guess not" laughed mother, "because it's beginning to rain. I'm afraid you'll have to play in the nursery. Why not play school?"
"I'm going to," replied Mary Jane, who always made up her mind very quickly. "I'm going to right now because Alice showed me how." And she skipped off gayly to the nursery.
There she pulled out every doll she had and set them in a long row on the floor.
"Marie Georgiannamore, you shall be lady-come-to-visit because you're the biggest and you are clean and new. I'll be teacher because I know the most. My sailor boy and Mary Jane, Jr., shall be the graduating class like Alice is and all the rest shall be the baby room."
Such a bustle and a hurry as there was after that! Mary Jane got out all her doll chairs, every one, and set them in two rows—one for the graduating class (a very short row of two chairs) and one for the baby room (a very long row of many chairs). She dragged out her little piano to play the songs on and got out fresh chalk for the blackboard.
"There, now, I guess we're ready to begin!" she said and she sat down in the teacher's chair up front.
For a while everything went splendidly. The sailor boy must have known his lessons well for he received very good marks—right up on the blackboard where everybody could see they were, too—and the teddy bears sat up straight and minded the rule about no whispering. But the straighter the teddy bears sat, the more particular their teacher became about the others.
"Tommy!" she announced suddenly (Tommy was the sailor doll), "I should think you would be ashamed to sit so slouchy when this good little bear sits so straight—sit up nice now!" She picked up Tommy and sat him straight in his chair, oh, so very straight—that he couldn't sit still that way, he just tumbled off onto the floor!
"Tommy! I'm ashamed of you!" she said firmly. "Sit up!" And again Tommy was pulled up straight. But evidently Tommy didn't have as much back bone as a sailor boy should have, for he tumbled right down again.
"Tommy Merrill!" cried Mary Jane, now all out of patience, "I should think you'd be ashamed to have a teddy bear sit straighter than you do! I think I'll sit you up on" (Mary Jane looked around the room to see where he had better be put) "on this radiator till you learn to behave." So, without giving Tommy a chance to explain that his back was made differently from the teddy bear's back and that he was sitting just as straight as ever he could, Mary Jane put him up on the radiator.
"There, now, you sit there for a while, Tommy, and if you're good I'll let you come down at recess time."
But as it turned out, there wasn't any recess in school that morning. Tommy had no more than been set up on the radiator before Mrs. Merrill called up the stairs to Mary Jane, who quickly dropped her piece of chalk and ran to the top of the stairs.
"Did you call, mother dear?" she asked.
"Yes, Mary Jane," replied Mrs. Merrill, "come downstairs at once. Somebody is here to see you."
Mary Jane dropped the book and chalk at the top of the stairs and ran down as fast as ever she could—somebody to see her often meant a very good time and she didn't want to miss a minute.
"Dr. Smith," said Mrs. Merrill as Mary Jane stepped into the room, "this is my little girl, Mary Jane."
"I'm glad to know you, Mary Jane," said Dr. Smith.
Mary Jane made her very best courtesy; held out her hand and then looked up into the stranger's face and asked, "Why does she call you a doctor?"
"Why shouldn't she?" asked the visitor curiously.
"Because you're not a doctor," answered Mary Jane positively. "Doctors wear funny white coats and rub their hands together and say, 'Well, little girl, what can I do for you to-day?' doctors do."
Dr. Smith and Mrs. Merrill laughed and the doctor sat down in the big Morris chair and took Mary Jane in his lap.
"I'm sorry to disappoint any little girl," he said pleasantly, "but, you see, I'm on a vacation so I don't have to wear a white coat and ask questions. I can sit down in this comfortable chair and have a good time."
"Can you make Tommy behave while you are having a good time?" asked Mary Jane.
"Who is Tommy?" inquired the doctor.
Mary Jane told him all about the school and Tommy who had trouble sitting up as straight as the teddy bears did.
"I'm afraid I can't do much for Tommy this morning," said the doctor when she had finished, "for I'm only here between trains. But I'll tell you what you might do. You might pack Tommy and all the bears into a trunk and visit your great-grandmother. Then I could help you."
"My great-grandmother!" exclaimed Mary Jane; "she lives way off in the country!"
"To be sure!" nodded Dr. Smith, "and so do I—I live next door to her. That's the reason I came to see you. Now ask your mother to let you go home with me and then we'll have plenty of time to attend to Tommy."
"Oh, no, we couldn't think of that!" exclaimed Mrs. Merrill, before Mary Jane had a chance to say a word. "Mary Jane is much too young to go so far from home without me and I can not possibly leave home just now."
Mary Jane looked from one to the other. A new idea, a brand new idea, was growing in her mind; the idea of making a visit—it had never occurred to her before.
"Does my grandmother live in a big house?" she asked.
"In a great, big, white farm house," replied Dr. Smith, "and she has lots of chickens and pigs and cows and strawberry patches and milk and—well, about everything a little girl could possibly want. And now she wishes a little girl named Mary Jane Merrill to come and visit her."
"And could I have really truly chickens of my own—not Doris's kind of chickens?" asked Mary Jane.
Mrs. Merrill laughed. "I guess you could, dear, but you mustn't think about it because you are not going. I'm afraid you have made trouble," she added laughingly to Dr. Smith, "because when Mary Jane starts thinking about something, she doesn't easily forget."
"Never you mind, Mary Jane," said Dr. Smith confidently, as he set her down and prepared to go, "you talk about visiting your great-grandmother all you want to, and some day you'll get there—you just see!"
"Will I really?" asked Mary Jane after the guest had gone.
"Really what?" said Mrs. Merrill.
"Really go to my great-grandmother's where the chickens and strawberries are?"
"Dear me, I don't know," replied Mrs. Merrill. "I know you'll not go till you are way, ever so much bigger girl than you are now—that's settled. Now run along with your school. I think Tommy needs you."
So Mary Jane went back to the nursery and played school. And being the kind of a little girl who knew it was not polite to tease, she didn't talk about the country—much. But she didn't forget—indeed, no! Not even when she was having a good time with the surprise that came a few days later.
AUNT EFFIE COMES TO VISIT
Great Aunt Effie lived way off in New York City, so far away that she had never before come to visit at Mary Jane's house. So, when one fine morning the postman brought a letter saying that in five days Aunt Effie would be at the Merrills, Mary Jane was quite excited.
"What does she look like and how long is she going to stay?" asked Mary Jane and then, before Mrs. Merrill could answer she added, "Will she like to play with me?"
"Don't ask me!" laughed Mrs. Merrill, "I have never seen her either. She's your Daddah's auntie, you know, ask him."
"That's funny," said Mary Jane, "How can she be just my Daddah's auntie? Isn't she yours and mine too?"
"To be sure she is," replied Mrs. Merrill; "she's our auntie now but she was his auntie first and we haven't had a chance to see her since she belonged to you and me. When father comes home this noon you must get him to tell you all about the good times he and his brother used to have at her house when they were little boys. Then you will know that you will surely love her very much and that you'll want her to stay at our house a good long time."
When Mr. Merrill came home for lunch he gladly told her about many of the good times this same auntie had given him when he was about as old as Mary Jane.
So no wonder Mary Jane was interested in the coming of their guest. She helped clean the guest room and all by herself fixed the vase of violets for the dresser. And then she put on her second best dress and drove with her father to the station to meet the unknown auntie.
Mr. Merrill locked the car and then he and Mary Jane went through the station and clear out to the tracks so they might see Aunt Effie the minute she got off the train. Pretty soon the great engine with its long trail of big Pullmans came snorting and puffing into the station; the porters stepped off the cars but not a single passenger appeared—except one small, lonely-looking little woman in black who climbed out of the last car.
"She didn't come!" exclaimed Mary Jane in dismay.
"Yes, she did, and here she is!" laughed father as he stepped up to greet the little lady. "Welcome, Aunt Effie! This is Mary Jane come to meet you!"
Now Mary Jane had never seen her grandmother or any older auntie, at least she hadn't seen them recently enough to remember them because the Merrills lived many miles from all their kith and kin. So she was much puzzled at the little old lady and far too shy to do more than to drop a nice little courtesy as her mother had taught her to do. Then they all climbed into the car and drove home.
Aunt Effie was tired from her long journey so she didn't talk much that evening and Mary Jane went off to bed feeling not one bit acquainted with the auntie she had thought and talked so much about.
"I don't believe she likes little girls," she thought sadly. "I don't believe she even saw me because when grown folks see little girls they always say, 'How old are you, little girl?' and then they say, 'My! my! you're almost big enough to go to school!' and she didn't say a thing to me!" And she went to sleep thinking about how fine it would be to have a really truly "play-with" auntie come to visit.
Aunt Effie hadn't come down to breakfast yet when Mary Jane had finished hers so she started playing all by herself. "I think I'll play dress up to-day," she said to her mother as she slipped down from the table.
"That will be fine," said Mrs. Merrill; "the attic is plenty warm and you can play up there all you like to, only you must remember to put everything away neatly when you have finished playing."
"I will, mother dear," answered Mary Jane and she kissed her mother and started up the stairs.
Now up in the Merrill attic, off in a nice comfortable corner where it wouldn't be in any one's way, was the girls' "dress-up box." In it were kept all the clothes that Alice and Mary Jane were allowed to play with. There were old coats and wonderful old hats that were so queer one would never guess real ladies had worn them! And slippers and hair ribbons and petticoats and shawls and silk dresses and morning dresses and parasols and—oh, the most things you ever saw! Whenever Mrs. Merrill had something that she couldn't use any more and that wasn't worth giving away to some needy person, she put it in the girls' box. And whenever the girls, either Alice with her big girl friends or Mary Jane with her little playmates wanted to dress up or have a show they helped themselves out of the box—it was great fun as you can see. Many a morning when Mary Jane was tired of being Mary Jane, she slipped off to the attic and dressed up to be somebody else.
This particular morning she hardly knew what she was going to be. She pulled out a couple of gay hair ribbons, a pair of dark gloves and a shopping bag. And the bag decided the play for her.
"I'm going to be Aunt Effie-like-I-thought-she-was," she said gayly, "and I'm going to come and visit!" And then she set to work pulling stuff out of the box and hunting just the right thing to dress in. She finally put on a gay plaid skirt, a big black hat trimmed with a great pink rose, a yellow waist and a red scarf. Then she pulled on the pair of gloves, picked up the shopping bag and started for the stairs.
And who do you suppose she met coming up? Aunt Effie! The real Aunt Effie!
"Well, good morning!" said the real Aunt Effie smilingly, "who have we here?"
Mary Jane looked long and carefully. She hated to take other people into her games and then find out that they laughed at her. And she had learned by experience that some grown folks never learn the game of "dress-up." But Aunt Effie, the this-morning Aunt Effie, whose eyes looked rested and smiling, seemed very much as though she might understand dress-up, very much. Mary Jane decided to try her.
"I'm Aunt Effie come to visit," she said solemnly.
"Now, isn't that nice," answered Aunt Effie and she didn't seem one bit surprised or amused or anything that grown folks sometimes are, "and who am I?"
"Oh, will you play too?" cried Mary Jane clapping her hands happily.
"To be sure I will," laughed the real Aunt Effie, "that's what I came upstairs for."
"Then you come over here by the box and I'll dress you up in some little girl things and you can be Mary Jane," said the happy little girl. "Do you like pink or blue sashes?"
Aunt Effie decided for blue and fortunately they found a nice, long blue ribbon and a white dress of Alice's that was just the thing. Such fitting and pinning and dressing and tying you never saw. And when it was all done, Aunt Effie looked so much like a little girl that she couldn't help but act like one and she and the "dress-up" auntie played together all the morning long.
So much fun did they have that mother had to call twice to make them understand that lunch was ready!
"Here, you show me how you want things put away, Mary Jane," said Aunt Effie hastily when they finally heard. "Let's scramble them away so as not to keep mother waiting."
"We'll put them right on the top in the box," said Mary Jane, "'cause we'll want to play some more—lots!"
And they did, many times.
KEWPIE AND THE WASHING
One morning a few days after the dress-up fun Aunt Effie had to go down town on some errands and Mary Jane was left to play by herself. She and her auntie had grown to be such good play fellows that it was hard to find something interesting to do without Aunt Effie to join in the fun.
"Why don't you find something to do and then do it?" said Mrs. Merrill after Mary Jane had made pictures on the window pane and rummaged through the mending basket and poked her finger into the canary's cage and fingered the forbidden little green balls on the ends of the fern leaves. "Little girls can't expect to have a good time when they do all the things they are not allowed to do. Go and play with Marie Georgiannamore, you haven't played with her since Aunt Effie came."
"Will you play too?" asked Mary Jane.
"Not for a while yet, dear," replied mother, "because this is wash morning and I have a new laundress to look after. Didn't you see her come around the house when we were at breakfast? I have to go downstairs and show her how we like our clothes washed and starched. Don't you want to go along?"
"Oh, yes, mother, I do!" cried Mary Jane happily. "I want to learn to wash, too." Then she thought a minute. "But I believe I'd better take Marie Georgiannamore along too—she's lonesome."
"I'm sure she is," answered Mrs. Merrill. "You run along and get her and then we'll go to the laundry."
Mary Jane hurried upstairs for her big doll, but, though she searched every place that a big doll ought to be, not a sign of Marie Georgiannamore could she see.
"Mother!" called Mary Jane over the front stair railing, "Marie Georgiannamore's lost!"
"Lost—no, surely not," said Mrs. Merrill and she started up the stairs to hunt for the misplaced dolly. "Oh, I remember now, dear," she added when she was half way up, "Aunt Effie took her clothes off to wash them and I expect the dolly is some place in her room. Get your biggest kewpie and come on, I can't wait too long."
Now Kewpie, the biggest kewpie, was the doll with the broad smile who slept with Mary Jane every night. Other dolls got their hair mussed or their clothes untidied or something; but Kewpie could always be depended on to be neat and smiling no matter where he slept or what happened to him—a most satisfactory doll to take to bed as you can see. Mary Jane ran into her room to get him but her bed was all neatly made and Kewpie was nowhere to be seen.
"Kewpie's lost too," called Mary Jane.
"No, he isn't," laughed mother, who by that time was at the bottom of the stairs, "he must be right there, you had him in bed last night, you know."
Mary Jane ran back and poked her hand under the pillow; looked under the bed; on the dresser and on the window seat. No Kewpie was to be found.
"You'll find him in a minute," Mrs. Merrill called up the stairs, "and then you come down and meet me—I'll be looking for you, dear." And then she hurried on to her waiting duties.
Mary Jane hunted and hunted but she didn't find Kewpie. She did find her rag doll tucked back in the far corner of the closet and she began playing with her and forgot all about Kewpie and the new laundress and even about her own lonesomeness with Aunt Effie away. She had such a good time dressing the rag doll in new clothes and going visiting with her and all that, that she didn't notice mother when she twice peeped into the door to see if her little girl was safe and happy. First thing Mary Jane knew, it was lunch time—you know how quickly the clock does run round and round when you are having a good time.
Now on wash day the Merrills didn't have their lunch on the dining table as they did on other days; no, because they liked to do different things and wash day is a very good day to be different. On that day Mrs. Merrill fixed a tempting little tray for each person and left all the trays on the kitchen table. Then each person as he or she came home, father and Alice and Aunt Effie (and of course mother and Mary Jane who were already at home, had trays too), went into the kitchen and got his or her own tray—the trays could be told apart by the napkin rings marked with initials—and carried it into the living room and sat down in a comfortable chair and ate lunch. And afterwards, each person carried his or her own tray back to the kitchen table. They thought that way of eating lunch was lots of fun and Mary Jane well remembered how big and important she felt the first day mother allowed her to carry her own tray (with the glass of milk on mother's tray for safe keeping, of course) and to hold it on her own lap like big folks instead of sitting up to the piano bench like a baby! Mary Jane felt bigger that day than she ever had in all her life.
Just as she had picked up her tray and was going out of the kitchen on this particular noon, the new laundress came up from the laundry. Of course that wasn't so very unusual for Mary Jane often met the laundress in the kitchen at noon time, but it was unusual to have the laundress step up and lay something on her tray. Mary Jane had to hold tight to keep from spilling something she was so surprised!
"I guess this must be yours, little girl," the laundress said, "I found it in one of the sheets." And Mary Jane looked and saw her Kewpie that she had hunted so hard to find.
"Oh, that must be my fault!" exclaimed mother. "I gathered the sheets up in such a hurry this morning that I quite forgot to look for Kewpie—I'm sorry!"
Mary Jane looked up at the kindly face of the new laundress, "Thank you so much," she said, "and I'm coming down to see you after I have eaten my lunch."
So as soon as she had lunched and had carried her tray back to the kitchen table, she hurried downstairs to the laundry. That new laundress seemed to know a great deal about little girls and to like them for she answered all Mary Jane's questions and told stories and didn't seem to be bothered a bit by having a little guest.
"There!" she said finally, "I'm ready to hang out. Do you want to come along to the yard and hold the clothes pins?"
"I'll come pretty soon," said Mary Jane, and then she added importantly, "I have something I want to do first."
"Come along then, when you're through," answered the laundress unsuspiciously, and she picked up the heavy basket and went out of doors.
Left alone, Mary Jane slipped over to the wringer—that was the one thing above all others in the laundry that interested her and she did want to see how it worked. She turned the handle slowly three or four times, watching the cogs as she did so to see how they fit into each other so neatly and then so quickly slipped out again.
"I do think that's funny," she said thoughtfully; "there must be something in there that makes them act so, I guess I'd better see what it is." And slowly turning the handle with one hand, she stuck an inquiring finger in between the cogs.
Of the few minutes that followed, Mary Jane never had a very good idea. She knew she must have screamed with the pain of a hurt finger because the laundress rushed in from the yard, mother came from upstairs and in a few minutes Aunt Effie hurried breathlessly down the stairs. Then, before long, the doctor was there too, and her finger was all tied up with sticks on each side and father hurried in the front door and asked her how she'd like a nice, long, Christmasy stick of candy. It all happened just that quick.
"I think things is so funny," said Mary Jane later as she luxuriously licked her candy. "If Marie Georgiannamore hadn't hid and if Kewpie hadn't gone to the washing and if I hadn't wondered about that wringer thing, I wouldn't have had this candy that I've wanted for—for ninety-seven days."
"Yes," agreed the doctor as he went out of the door, "things is funny. And my advice to you, young lady, is this; next time you want to see how a wringer works, ask before you investigate. Another time you might lose, instead of bruise, your finger."
"I will," nodded Mary Jane, "only I don't want to know how it works any more—I know enough now, I do."
JUNIOR'S SHOWER BATH
It's very funny to go around the house with your finger tied up in a bandage and two strips of wood—that is, it's funny the first day. By the second day it's queer and after that it's no fun at all; it's a bother.
Long before Mary Jane was allowed to use her hand again she had decided that never, never, NEVER would she poke her finger into anything. It takes only a second to poke a finger in but it takes a good long time to get a badly hurt finger well, she had learned that.
For the first three days Aunt Effie played with her all the day long and that wasn't so bad. They played dress up and school and Aunt Effie showed her how she had school when she was a little girl. And they made new dresses for all the dolls; and straightened the drawers of all the doll dressers and—well, they did every single thing that Mary Jane could think of or Aunt Effie could plan. And then, without a minute's warning a telegram came; a telegram which said that Aunt Effie must come home at once because her sister was sick.
And after that Mary Jane was lonesome, oh, so very lonesome and she couldn't think of half enough things to do to fill the days. For, you see, Mrs. Merrill had her duties and father had to go to his work and Alice had her school and Doris had the chicken pox so no one, much as they might have wished to, could spend every minute of the day with a little girl who was perfectly well except for a hurt finger. That little girl had to play by herself a part of the time.
Mary Jane was standing by her mother's dresser, a couple of mornings after Aunt Effie left, when the cleaning woman came into the room to give it its weekly cleaning.
"Why don't you help here, Mary Jane?" suggested Mrs. Merrill; "you could dust my dresser things with your well hand and lay each thing, as you dust it, on the bed. Then I'll shake the dresser cover and Amanda will put the dust sheet on the bed and everything will be ready for cleaning in a jiffy."
If there was one thing above another that Mary Jane loved to do, it was to handle the pretty things on her mother's dresser. Ordinarily she wasn't allowed to touch a thing there, so she quickly replied, "Yes, mother, I'd love to help," and then took the dusting cloth Mrs. Merrill handed her and set to work.
She dusted off the pin tray and the toilet water bottle and brushed the fringe of the lamp shade—she knew exactly what to do because she had watched her mother many times.
"There, now!" she said in a satisfied voice, "it's all ready for the cover cloth. Can you put it on, 'Manda?" Amanda Rice was the good cleaning woman who came every week to set the Merrill house in apple pie order; she and Mary Jane were fast friends.
"Jest a little minite, honey," replied Amanda, "soon as ever I gets this rain room clean."
Just off Mrs. Merrill's room was a tiny room which opened also into the bathroom and in this tiny room was a shower bath. Amanda insisted on calling it the rain room because the water came down from the ceiling like rain; and she always seemed to have a fear that something about that room would hurt her. She was most particular to clean that room before she did either the bathroom or Mrs. Merrill's room—she seemed to want the bad job out of the way.
Perhaps when Mary Jane asked her to hurry with the cover cloth, Amanda hurried a little too fast with her scouring of faucets or perhaps she was just careless. However it happened, she turned on the cold water and it poured over her from the ceiling in an ice cold shower.
"Heavens! Honey! Lor' a mercy! De water hit me!" she shouted and she ran, dripping and screaming out of the shower room, out of the bedroom and down the hall.
Mrs. Merrill came hurrying to see what the matter might be and Mary Jane jumped to turn off the water before it should splatter out on the bedroom floor. And then, while Mrs. Merrill was busy comforting Amanda and hunting some dry clothes for her, Mary Jane sat down on the bed room floor to think. How funny Amanda had looked with the water running all over her clothes! Mary Jane, who had been used to a shower bath from the time she was a tiny little girl, had never before realized how funny it seemed to other folks. "I expect Doris would think it was funny," she thought. "I wonder if she knows about it. And wouldn't Junior look—" but Mrs. Merrill bustled into the room just then and Mary Jane had no more time for thoughts.
Mrs. Merrill worked rapidly to make up for lost time. She shook the dresser scarf out of the window, brushed off the window-seat pillows and finished making the room ready for Amanda. "Now, dear," she said to Mary Jane when everything was finished, "Amanda is coming in here to sweep, why don't you go out and play a while with Junior? See? He's out in the yard. If you play nicely, you won't hurt your finger, I'm sure."
Mary Jane didn't care much about playing with Junior just then; she would far rather have stayed and help Amanda sweep. So she walked very slowly down the stairs and out of doors and was none too cordial in her greeting to Junior. But he didn't seem to mind and as it's very hard to keep on snubbing a person who doesn't notice he is being snubbed, Mary Jane soon gave it up and they began making mud pies. Nice goo-y mud pies out of the black mud in the to-be-geranium bed near the house.
But hardly had they finished their pies and arranged them on the edge of the porch to bake, before Junior's mother called him to come home.
"She's always calling you home," protested Mary Jane, "but I 'pose you'll have to go or you can't ever come over here again!"
"Yes," agreed Junior, "I'd better go home. But I'll come back again." And he started to wipe his muddy hands on his trousers.
"Oh, don't, Junior!" cried Mary Jane. "You know what your mother'll say! She don't like mud pies anyway. Come into the house and wash 'em before you go."
The two children skipped into the house and upstairs to the bathroom where Mary Jane filled the bowl with warm water—then she thought of something.
"Do you like to walk out of doors in the rain?" she asked craftily.
"Yes," replied Junior in surprise, "only my mother won't let me."
"Don't you think she'd let you if it rained indoors?"
"I don't know, 'cause it don't," replied Junior decidedly.
"Yes, it does, it does at our house," said Mary Jane. "You stand inside this door, and I'll show you."
Junior seemed to have some objection to closets so it took coaxing to get him where Mary Jane wanted him. But when, on careful inspection, he found that this closet had two doors, quite unlike other closets he was acquainted with, and also that it looked very harmless, he stepped over the high sill and onto the tile floor. Quick as a flash Mary Jane reached up and turned on the water—and down came the deluge!
Water so cold that it took his breath away so he couldn't scream and then, in a minute, so hot that it burned him, descended from the spray in the ceiling and soaked him to the skin. Mary Jane sat on the door sill, in all the splatter, and laughed and laughed. Junior grabbed for the door and shook it trying to get out—just as Mrs. Merrill opened the door from her bedroom onto the sight. Junior darted passed her and ran down the stairs, dripping water and mud from his dirty hands on every step and screaming at the top of his voice all the way.
"What in the world—" began Mrs. Merrill.
"We was just talking about water from the sky in the house," explained Mary Jane innocently, "and Junior was surprised to see it come. I guess he thought water from the sky in the house would be dry," she added.
"And I," said Mrs. Merrill as she took off her dusting cap and reaching into the clothes closet for her coat, "will have to leave my work and go over and explain and apologize. Mary Jane, you sit right there on that chair till I come back and you can't have another little playmate over this week—not one!"
Mary Jane sat down on the big chair and started counting the boards in the floor. "One, two, three, six nine seven, ten," she said to herself patiently. "Then if nobody can come to see me, I guess I'll have to find somebody right in this house. I wonder—"
What did she wonder?—wait and see.
"You sit right there, Dorothy, and make yourself at home," said Mary Jane, "and I'll get Marie Georgiannamore for you to play with."
"What in the world!" exclaimed Mrs. Merrill to herself as she passed Mary Jane's door on the morning after Junior had had his shower bath. "Who can be there now? I particularly told Mary Jane not to invite any children in, this week." She opened the door and was already to say, "Whose little girl are you?" as she usually did to new friends that Mary Jane brought home. But this time there wasn't any little girl there! Only Mary Jane and her dolls and her teddy bears playing as contentedly as you please.
"Oh!" laughed Mrs. Merrill, much relieved, "that's a joke on me, Mary Jane; I thought you were talking to some new little girl. I didn't know that you had named one of your dolls Dorothy."
"I was talking to a little girl," answered Mary Jane solemnly, "and I haven't changed the name of one of my dolls—not one."
"Well, that's nice," said Mrs. Merrill, but she didn't pay more than half attention to what Mary Jane said because she just happened to think of something that she surely must order from the grocery as soon as she could get downstairs. "I'm glad you are having such a good time." And she kissed her little daughter lightly and went away.
"You'll have to excuse her, Dorothy," apologized Mary Jane, "grown folks don't know much sometimes and I'm sure she didn't see you or she'd have asked you to stay for lunch." She pulled two chairs over to the window seat, got out paper and colored pencils and then sat down in one chair. "Now you make snow on your paper and I'll make a picture."
For some minutes there was quiet in the nursery except for the sound of Mary Jane's pencil rubbing, rubbing on the paper.
"There!" she said at last, "there's a cow and two chickens and a strawberry like they have at my great-grandmother's that Dr. Smith told me about. Let's see your snow," she added politely. She picked up the blank piece of white paper that lay in front of the other chair and looked at it thoughtfully. "You do make nice snow, Dorothy," she said, "it's so clean and white. Now let's go down and see if lunch is ready."
When she reached the door of the nursery, she stepped back to let some one pass out in front of her and as she went downstairs she was careful to keep well to one side so that there was plenty of room for some one to walk beside her. She went through the empty living room, through the dining room and out into the kitchen where her mother was working.
"May Dorothy and I have our lunch?" she asked.
"Lunch?" asked Mrs. Merrill, and in her hurry she only noticed half what Mary Jane said, "yes, in just a minute. It's almost time for father and I'm so late. Will you run into the dining room, dear, and see that the chairs are all set up to the table as they should be? That's a good little helper."
Mary Jane hurried back to the dining room and set five chairs up to the table—to be sure they were a bit crowded and so was the extra place Mary Jane set with napkin, plate, glass and silver that she got from the sideboard, but Mary Jane didn't seem to notice that, she was quite pleased and satisfied with her work.
"Now you sit right here, Dorothy," she said, "and I'll sit beside you so you won't be lonesome." She pushed her chair beside the vacant one and climbed into it.
Father and mother and Alice came into the room one after another and each exclaimed over the vacant chair.
"Who's the company?" asked father.
"Why the chair?" demanded Alice.
"I thought you knew how to count, Mary Jane," added mother. "Didn't you know there were only four of us? You're a funny little girl!"
"I can count," said Mary Jane with great dignity, "and I know there are four of us when five of us isn't here. But I had to have a chair for Dorothy."
And then, for the first time, Mrs. Merrill realized that something was going on in Mary Jane's mind—something new.
"Dorothy?" she asked kindly; "who is this Dorothy you have been telling me about?"
"She's the little girl who comes to see me when you won't let me play with anybody come to see me," explained Mary Jane patiently, "and I'm glad she's here because I'm lonesome and I want her to stay for lunch because she's a nice little girl and I don't like people to laugh."
Mrs. Merrill frowned at Mr. Merrill and Alice who showed signs of laughing and then gathered her little girl into her arms. "Have you been as lonesome as that?" she asked.
"Just as lonesome as lonesome," answered Mary Jane. "I'm lonesomer than when nobody comes to see me because this time I know nobody's coming to see me even if they wouldn't anyway."
"Why is she so lonesome?" asked Mr. Merrill who seemed to understand just what his little girl meant even though what she said was a little mixed. "Can't anybody play with her?"
Mrs. Merrill reminded him of Junior's shower bath and of her command that Mary Jane should have no more guests till she had learned how to treat them. "I've been too busy this morning to give any lessons in treating guests," she added, "but I had planned to have a first rate lesson this afternoon. I had planned to take Mary Jane calling with me; then she could see just what good times folks can have and still be kind and polite. How would you like to go calling with me, Mary Jane?"
"Really?" exclaimed Mary Jane who could hardly believe her good luck; "really truly, grown-up-lady calling, mother?"
"Really truly," said mother, "but wait a minute. Do you think you could leave Dorothy at home? I wouldn't care to take two little girls at once."
"Oh, yes," replied Mary Jane who was suddenly anxious to oblige, "I could leave her home and I think maybe, while I was gone she might go away on the train to—to—see her Aunt Effie, don't you think she might?"
"Indeed I do," said Mrs. Merrill. "It wouldn't surprise me a bit to find her gone when we came back. Now eat your lunch, Mary Jane, and then we'll go upstairs and rest a bit before we dress to make our calls. We'll have a beautiful afternoon and you'll see just how nicely folks treat other folks when they come to visit. And remember, dear, if you had treated Junior as kindly as you treat Dorothy, you could have had all the company that came."
"I am remembering it," said Mary Jane meekly, "and, mother, may I wear my pink dress with the smocking and the pink ribbons?"
Mrs. Merrill said that she might, so a very happy Mary Jane finished her lunch and hurried upstairs to lie down for fifteen minutes in a dark room.
When the time was up Mrs. Merrill came to her door and asked, "Did you see anything of my butterfly pin when you cleared off my dresser yesterday morning, Mary Jane?"
"No-o-o, I didn't," said Mary Jane thoughtfully.
"That's funny," replied Mrs. Merrill, "I was sure it was there! Of course I should have put it where it belongs but I can't see where it could get to—I know Amanda wouldn't take it and you would have remembered, wouldn't you, if you had put it anywhere?"
"Yes, mother, I'm sure I would," said Mary Jane positively. "I know I didn't touch it, I didn't even see it once!"
"Well, I've hunted everywhere I can think of so I guess it's gone and I would rather lose anything I have than lose that pin! Just see how big ladies get punished when they are careless! I didn't put my pin away where it belonged and now it is gone. But don't you feel too badly, dear," she added when she saw how sorry Mary Jane felt for her; "it's time for us to dress for our calls."
So Mary Jane quickly forgot about her mother's loss. She scrubbed her hands and put on her own shoes and made herself all ready for her mother to brush her hair and slip on the new pink dress. Then the very last thing, the hat with the pink rosebuds was put on and they started out.
Such a good time as they did have! Two ladies they called on, and one must surely have expected a little girl would come to visit because she had tea served with sandwiches (Mary Jane ate three, two made with marmalade and one with lettuce—think of that!) and pink candles which twinkled and looked almost as nice as the sandwiches. Such a very good time did they have that they barely got home in time to meet Alice as she came in from school.
And playmate Dorothy must surely have gone away while they were calling because she was never heard of again.
LEARNING TO SEW
"I like to do lady things," said Mary Jane the next morning. "Isn't there something we can do to-day?"
"Something that's a 'lady' thing?" asked Mrs. Merrill.
"Yes, a really truly lady thing," explained Mary Jane; "something that I don't know how to do 'cause I like to learn things."
"Yes, there are lots of things we might do, but I haven't much time I fear," replied her mother, "because I promised Alice I would finish her dress."
"Then you'll have to sew," said Mary Jane and though she tried not to mind, she couldn't help being disappointed.
"Yes," agreed Mrs. Merrill, "I'll have to sew. But I'll tell you, Mary Jane, what you might do" (and Mary Jane's disappointment vanished as soon as she saw her mother had a plan) "you might sew too."
"Oh, goody, goody, goody!" exclaimed Mary Jane and she clapped her hands gayly, "and that's a grown-up lady thing for true!"
"I should say it was," said Mrs. Merrill.
"Shall I make me a dress?" asked Mary Jane.
"Well, not just the first thing," laughed Mrs. Merrill; "folks don't learn to sew on dresses—not even big ladies do that. Now what had you better begin on?" And she thought a minute while Mary Jane watched her anxiously. "Oh, I know! You can make a picture card."
"Sew a card?" asked Mary Jane doubtfully.
"Yes, it's lots of fun," said her mother.
"But Alice don't do that," objected Mary Jane, "she sews goods."
"I know she does now," replied Mrs. Merrill, "but she used to sew cards and she loved doing it too. Only that was so long ago you know nothing about it. I remember that just the other day I saw some pretty picture sewing cards at the store; I'll go right to the phone and order some for you." And she hurried off to get the order in before the first delivery started.
As she came back into the room Mary Jane asked, "Do I have to wait all the time till the picture card comes before I begin my lady work?"
"It won't be long till that gets here," said Mrs. Merrill; "maybe it will be here before we are ready because we haven't done our breakfast dishes yet—that's a joke on us, isn't it?"
Mary Jane agreed that it was and in gay spirits they set to work.
Some folks might have said that a little girl Mary Jane's age was far too young to dry dishes—that she might break them. But Mary Jane's mother was not one of those "some folks." She believed that little girls not only could help well, but that they liked helping. So Mary Jane had learned to dry dishes some time ago and could polish the silver and shine the glasses just as well as any one. Of course it might take a little longer than when mother or 'Manda or Alice did it, but who cares about time when a job is well done? And there was one thing about working with her mother that Mary Jane especially liked; while they worked, they always talked—such fine talks, Mary Jane thought, about everything that Mary Jane liked to talk about.
This morning it was sewing, of course.
"How old were you when you learned to sew, mother?" asked Mary Jane as she picked up a glass and began to shine it.
"Let me see," said Mrs. Merrill thoughtfully. "I was younger than you are, I know, I wasn't more than three and a half or four years old."
"And did you sew on a card?" asked Mary Jane.
"No, because sewing cards for little girls to learn on were not made then. Or if they were, my mother didn't know about them. I learned by making a quilt for my doll bed."
"What's a quilt?" asked Mary Jane as she set her first glass down and picked up another.
"A quilt is something like a comforter," explained Mrs. Merrill, "only it isn't made so thick and heavy and the outside is made up of lots of little pieces of cloth sewed together in a pattern. I remember my grandmother Camfield came to visit us and she thought it was so dreadful that I—a great big girl nearly four years old—hadn't learned to sew or knit. So she hunted up my mother's piece bag the very first day she came and cut out some blocks for me to piece. Funny pieces they were, too, Mary Jane, you'll laugh when I show it to you sometime! Because the goods look very different from the kinds of goods we see now, very different. I know one piece had big red horse shoes all over it and another had horses' heads. Those pieces were from my little brother's waists and were thought just exactly right for boys in those days."
"Can't I make a quilt for my dollies?" asked Mary Jane eagerly.
"To be sure you can, dear," answered Mrs. Merrill, "only I think you will find it more fun to learn to sew on those pretty cards I've ordered. Then when you can handle your needle well, you can make a quilt just as I did. There, now, we're through here," she added, "and if you'll clean the bathroom washstand while I tidy the bedrooms, we can sit right down to sew."
If there was one bit of housework above another that Mary Jane loved to do, it was to clean the bathroom washstand; and she could do it beautifully, too. Mrs. Merrill gave her a soft cloth and the box of cleaning powder and she went to work. First she cleaned the soap dish; then she sprinkled a little powder on her cloth (just as she had seen 'Manda do many a time) and then she rubbed and rubbed the faucets till they shone so bright and clear that she could see her hair ribbon in them. Next she sprinkled powder on the stand and cleaned that; and last of all, she scoured the bowl. Then she called to her mother (and this part was the most fun of all Mary Jane thought) and watched while Mrs. Merrill inspected the work and said (as she always did), "that's beautiful, Mary Jane! What a fine worker you are!" Then she ran and put away the can of powder and the cloth and the job was done.
This morning, just as the can was set in the closet where it belonged, the door bell rang.
"Can you go, dear?" asked Mrs. Merrill. "I expect that's the delivery man with your sewing."
Could Mary Jane go? Well, indeed she could! She rushed down the stairs as fast as she could go and opened the front door in such a jiffy that the delivery man jumped with surprise as she said, "Is it my sewing?"
"Search me," he answered, "it's a box." And he handed her the parcel.
"Oh, dear, then it isn't," said Mary Jane much disappointed; and she turned and went slowly up the stairs—so slowly, that you would never have guessed, from the time it took her to go up, that they were the same stairs she had so quickly hurried down not two minutes before.
"It isn't it," she announced sadly at the door of her mother's room.
"Oh, yes, I guess it is," said Mrs. Merrill, and Mary Jane noticed that she didn't seem a bit worried. "It must be, because I haven't bought anything else. Come over here and let's see."