MISS ELLIOT'S GIRLS
STORIES OF BEASTS, BIRDS, AND BUTTERFLIES
By MRS. MARY SPRING CORNING
A.L. BURT COMPANY, PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT 1886, BY CONGREGATIONAL SUNDAY-SCHOOL AND PUBLISHING SOCIETY.
GREENY, BLACKY, AND SLY-BOOTS.
Sammy Ray was running by the parsonage one day when Miss Ruth called to him. She was sitting in the vine-shaded porch, and there was a crutch leaning against her chair.
"Sammy," she said, "isn't there a field of tobacco near where you live?"
"Yes'm; two of 'em."
"To-morrow morning look among the tobacco plants and find me a large green worm. Have you ever seen a tobacco worm?"
"I've killed more'n a hundred of 'em this summer," he said. "Pat Heeley hires me to smash all I can find, 'cause they eat the tobacco."
"Well, bring one carefully to me on the leaf where he is feeding; the largest one you can find."
Before breakfast the next morning Ruth Elliot had her first sight of a tobacco worm.
"Take care!" said Sammy, "or he'll spit tobacco juice on you. See that horn on his tail? When you want to kill him, you jest catch hold this way, and"—
"But I don't want to kill him," she said. "I want to keep him in this nice little house I have got ready for him, and give him all the tobacco he can eat. Will you bring me a fresh leaf every, morning?"
While she was speaking she had put the worm in a box with a cover of pink netting. On his way home Sammy met Roy Tyler, and told him (as a secret) that the lame lady at the minister's house kept worms, and would pay two cents a head for tobacco worms. "Anyway," said Sammy, "that's what she paid me."
If there was money to be got in the tobacco-worm business, Roy wanted a share in it; and before night he brought to Miss Ruth, in an old tin basin, eight worms of various sizes, from a tiny baby worm just hatched, to a great, ugly creature, jet black, and spotted and barred with yellow. The black worm Miss Ruth consented to keep, and Roy, lifting him by his horn, dropped him on the green worm's back.
"Now you have a Blacky and a Greeny," the boy said; and by these names they were called.
Roy and Sammy came together the next morning, and watched the worms at their breakfast.
"How they eat!" said Sammy; "they make their great jaws go like a couple of old tobacco-chewers."
"Yes; and if they lived on bread and butter 't would cost a lot to feed 'em, wouldn't it?" said Roy.
"Look at my woodbine worm, boys," Miss Ruth said, as she lifted the cover of another box. "Isn't he a beauty? See the delicate green, shaded to white, on his back, and that row of spots down his sides looking like buttons! I call him Sly-boots, because he has a trick of hiding under the leaves. He used to have a horn on his tail like the tobacco worms."
"Where that spot is, that looks like an eye?"
"Yes; and one day he ate nothing and hid himself away, and looked so strangely that I thought he was going to die; but the next morning he appeared in this beautiful new coat."
"How funny! Say, what is he going to turn into?"
But Miss Ruth was busy house-cleaning. First she turned out her tenants. They were at breakfast; but they took their food with them, and did not mind. Then she tipped their house upside down, and brushed out every stick and stem and bit of leaf, spread thick brown paper on the floor, and put back Greeny and Blacky snug and comfortable.
The next time Sammy and Roy met at the parsonage, three flower-pots of moist sand stood in a row under the bench.
"Winter quarters," Miss Ruth explained when she saw the boys looking at them; "and it's about time for my tenants to move in. Greeny and Blacky have stopped eating, and Sly-boots is turning pale."
"A worm turn pale!"
"Yes, indeed; look at him."
It was quite true; the green on his back had changed to gray-white, and his pretty spots were fading.
"He looks awfully; is he going to die?"
"Yes—and no. Come this afternoon and see what will happen."
But when they came, Blacky and Sly-boots were not to be seen. Their summer residence, empty and uncovered, stood out in the sun, and two of the flower-pots were covered with netting.
"I couldn't keep them, boys," Miss Ruth said; "they were in such haste to be gone. Only Greeny is above ground."
Greeny was in his flower-pot. He was creeping slowly round and round, now and then stretching his long neck over the edge, but not trying to get out. Soon he began to burrow. Straight down, head first, he went into the ground. Now he was half under, now three quarters, now only the end of his tail and the tip of his horn could be seen. When he was quite gone, Sammy drew a long breath and Roy said, "I swanny!"
"How long will he have to stay down there?"
"All winter, Roy."
"Happy fellow! I say. Why, he has done being a worm. His creeping days are over. He has only to lie snug and quiet under the ground a while; then wake and come up to the sunshine some bright morning with a new body and a pair of lovely wings to spread and fly away with."
"Why, it's like—it's like"—
"What is it like, Sammy?"
"Ain't it like folks, Miss Ruth?" Grandma sings:—
'I'll take my wings and fly away In the morning,'
"Yes," she said; "it is like folks." Then glancing at her crutch, repeated, smiling: "In the morning."
When the woodbine in the porch had turned red, and the maples in the door-yard yellow, the flower-pots were removed to the warm cellar, and one winter evening Sammy Ray wrote Greeny's epitaph:—
"A poor green worm, here I lie; But by-and-by I shall fly, Ever so high, Into the sky."
He came often in the spring to ask if any thing had happened, and one day Miss Ruth took from a box and laid in his hand a shining brown chrysalis, with a curved handle.
"What a funny little brown jug!" said Sammy.
"Greeny is inside; close your hand gently and see if you feel him."
"How cold!" said the boy; and then: "Oh! oh! he is alive, for he kicks!"
In June Greeny and Blacky came out of their shells, but no one saw them do it, for it was in the night; but Sly-boots was more obliging. One morning Miss Ruth heard a rustling, and lo! what looked like a great bug, with long, slender legs, was climbing to the top of the box. Soon he hung by his feet to the netting, rested motionless a while, and then slowly, slowly unfolded his wings to the sun. They were brown and white and pink, beautifully shaded, and his body was covered with rings of brown satin. Blacky and Greeny were not so handsome. They had orange-spotted bodies, great wings of sober gray, and carried long flexible tubes curled like a watch-spring, that could be stretched out to suck honey from the flowers.
At sunset Miss Ruth sent for the boys. She placed the uncovered box where the moths waited with folded wings, in the open window. Up from the garden came a soft breeze sweet with the breath of the roses and petunias. There was a stir, a rustle, a waving of dusky wings, and the box was empty.
So Greeny and Blacky and Sly-boots "took their wings and flew away," and the boys saw them no more.
THE PATCHWORK QUILT SOCIETY.
The minister's wife came home from a meeting of the sewing society one afternoon quite discouraged.
"Only nine ladies present!" she said, "and very little accomplished; and the barrel promised to that poor missionary out West, before cold weather—I really don't see how it is to be done."
"What work have you on hand?" Miss Ruth inquired.
"We have just made a beginning," Mrs. Elliot answered with a sigh. "There's half a dozen fine shirts to make, and a pile of sheets and pillowcases, dresses and aprons for four little girls, table-cloths and towels to hem, and I know not what else. We always have sent a bed-quilt, but this barrel must go without it. It's a pity, too, for they need bedding."
"Why, so it is," said Miss Ruth. "Susie,"—to a little girl sitting close beside her,—"why can't some of you girls get together one afternoon in the week and make a patchwork quilt to send in the barrel?"
Susie put her head on one side and considered.
"Where could we meet, Aunt Ruth?"
"Here in my room, Susie, if mamma has no objection."
"Certainly not," Mrs. Elliot said; "but are you well enough to undertake it, Ruth?"
"Yes, indeed, Mary; I shall really enjoy it."
"And would you cut out the blocks for us, and show us how to keep them from getting all skewonical, like the cradle-quilt I made for Amelia Adeline?"
Amelia Adeline was Susie's doll.
"Yes; and I could tell you stories while you were working. How would that do?"
"Why, it would be splendid!" said the little girl. "There comes Mollie, I guess, by the noise. Won't she be glad? Say, Mollie!—why, what a looking object!"
This exclamation was called forth by the appearance of the little girl, who had been heard running at full speed the length of the piazza, and now presented herself at the door of Miss Ruth's room, her face flushed, her hair in the wildest confusion, and the skirt of her calico frock quite detached from the waist, hanging over her arm.
"Wasn't it lucky that the gathers ripped?" she cried, holding up the unlucky fragment. "If they hadn't, mamma, I should be hanging, head down, from the five-barred gate in the lower pasture, and no body to help me but the cows. You see, I set out to jump, and my skirt got caught in a nail on the post."
"O Mollie!" said her mother, "what made you climb the five-barred gate?"
"'Cause she's a big tom-boy," said Lovina Tibbs, who had come from the kitchen to call the family to supper. "Ain't yer 'shamed of yerself, Mary Elliot?—a great girl like you, most ten years old, walkin' top o' rail fences and climbin' apple-trees in the low pastur'!"
"No, I'm not!" said Mollie, promptly.
"Hush, Mollie," said Mrs. Elliot. "Lovina, that will do. Wash your face and hands, Mollie, and make yourself decent to come to supper."
An hour later, seated in the hammock, the girls discussed their aunt's plan.
"We'll have the Jones girls," said Susie, "and Grace Tyler, and Nellie Dimock, she's such a dear little thing; and I suppose we must ask Fan Eldridge, because she lives next door, though I dread to have her come, she gets mad so easy; but mamma wouldn't like to have us leave her out; and then, let's see—oh! we'll ask Florence Austin, the new girl, you know."
"Would you?" said Mollie, doubtfully. "We don't know her very well, and she dresses so fine and is kind of citified, you know. Ar'n't you afraid she'll spoil the fun?"
"No," said Susie, decidedly. "Mamma said we were to be good to her because she's a stranger; and I think she's nice, too—not a bit proud, though her father is so rich."
"Well," Mollie assented, who, though thirteen months older than her sister, generally yielded to Susie's better judgment; "let her come, then. That makes six besides us, and Aunt Ruth said half a dozen would be plenty. Sue, I think it's going to be real jolly, don't you?"
THE STORY OF DINAH DIAMOND.
Miss Ruth Elliot was the minister's sister. And two years before, when she came to live in the parsonage, an addition of two rooms was built for her on the ground floor because she was an invalid, and lame, and could not climb the stairs.
They were pretty rooms, with soft carpets, pictures on the walls, and in the winter time the sun shining in all day at the south window and the glass door. In summer with this door wide open and the piazza cool and shady with woodbine and clematis, you would have agreed with the little girls who made up Ruth Elliot's sewing circle, that first Wednesday afternoon, that they were "just lovely!"
All were there—the Jones' twins, Ann Eliza and Eliza Ann, tall girls as like each other as two peas and growing so fast one could always see where their gowns were let down; Grace Tyler with curly black hair and rosy cheeks; Nellie Dimock, a little dumpling of a girl with big blue eyes and a funny turned up nose; Fannie Eldridge, looking so sweet and smiling, you would not suspect she could be guilty of the fault Susie had charged her with; and Florence Austin, whose father had lately purchased a house in Green Meadow, and with his family had come to live in the country. Last of all, the minister's two little daughters, whom you have already met.
Ruth Elliot was sitting at a table covered with piles of bright calico pieces cut and basted for sewing, and when each girl had received a block with all necessary directions for making it, needles were threaded, thimbles adjusted, and the Patchwork Quilt Society was in full session.
"Now, Aunt Ruth," said Susie, "you promised to tell us a story, you know."
"Yes; tell us about Dinah Diamond, please," said Mollie.
"You and Susie have heard that story before, Mollie."
"That does not make a bit of difference, Auntie. The stories we like best we have heard over and over again. Besides, the other girls haven't heard it. Come, Aunt Ruth, please begin."
And so, while all sat industriously at work, Ruth Elliot related to the little girls
THE TRUE STORY OF DINAH DIAMOND.
"When I was a little girl," she began, "I had a present from a neighbor of a black kitten. I carried her home in my apron, a little ball of black fur, with bright blue eyes that turned yellow as she got bigger, and a white spot on her breast shaped like a diamond. I remember she spit and clawed at me all the way home, and made frantic efforts to escape, and for a day or two was quite homesick and miserable; but she soon grew accustomed to her surroundings, and was so sprightly and playful that she became the pet of the house.
"The first remarkable thing she did, was to set herself on fire with a kerosene lamp. We were sitting at supper one evening, when we heard a crash in the sitting-room, and rushing in, found the cloth that had covered the center table and a blazing lamp on the floor. It was the work of an instant for my father to raise a window, wrap the lamp in the table-cloth, and throw both into the street. This left the room in darkness, and I don't think the cause of the accident occured to any of us, till there rushed from under the sofa a little ball of fire that flew round and round the room at a most astonishing pace.
"'Oh, my kitten! my kitten!' I screamed. 'She's burning to death! Catch her! Catch her! Put her out! Throw cold water on her! Oh, my poor, poor Dinah!' and I began a wild chase in the darkness, weeping and wailing as I ran. The entire family joined in the pursuit. We tumbled over chairs and footstools. We ran into each other, and I remember my brother Charlie and I bumped our heads together with a dreadful crash, but I think neither of us felt any pain. They called out to each other in the most excited tones: 'Head her off there! Corner her! You've got her! No, you haven't! There she goes! Catch her! Catch her!' while I kept up a wailing accompaniment, 'Oh, my poor, precious Dinah! my burned up Dinah Diamond,' etc.
"Well, my mother caught her at last in her apron and rolled her in the hearth rug till every vestige of fire was extinguished and then laid her in my lap.
"Don't laugh, Mollie," said tenderhearted Nellie Dimock—"please don't laugh. I think it was dreadful. O Miss Ruth, was the poor little thing dead?"
"No, indeed, Nellie; and, wonderful to relate, she was very little hurt. We supposed her fine thick coat kept the fire from reaching her body, for we could discover no burns. Her tongue was blistered where she had lapped the flame, and in her wild flight she had lamed one of her paws. Of course her beauty was gone, and for a few weeks she was that deplorable looking object—a singed cat. But oh, what tears of joy I shed over her, and how I dosed her with catnip tea, and bathed her paw with arnica, and nursed and petted her till she was quite well again! My little brother Walter ("That was my papa, you know," Mollie whispered to her neighbor), who was only three years old, would stand by me while I was tending her, his chubby face twisted into a comical expression of sympathy, and say in pitying tones: 'There! there! poo-ittle Dinah! I know all about it. How oo must huffer' (suffer). The dear little fellow had burned his finger not long before and remembered the smart.
"I am sorry to say that the invalid received his expressions of sympathy in a very ungracious manner, spitting at him notwithstanding her sore tongue, and showing her claws in a threatening way if he tried to touch her. As fond as I was of Dinah, I was soon obliged to admit that she had an unamiable disposition."
"Why, Miss Ruth, how funny!" said Ann Eliza Jones. "I didn't know there was any difference in cats' dispositions."
"Indeed there is," Miss Ruth answered: "quite as much as in the dispositions of children, as any one will tell you who has raised a family of kittens. Well, Dinah made a quick recovery, and when her new coat was grown it was blacker and more silky than the old one. She was a handsome cat, not large, but beautifully formed, with a bright, intelligent face and great yellow eyes that changed color in different lights. She was devoted to me, and would let no one else touch her if she could help it, but allowed me to handle her as I pleased. I have tucked her in my pocket many a time when I went of an errand, and once I carried her to the prayer-meeting in my mother's muff. But she made a serious disturbance in the midst of the service by giving chase to a mouse, and I never repeated the experiment.
"Dinah was a famous hunter, and kept our own and the neighbors' premises clear of rats and mice, but never to my knowledge caught a chicken or a bird. She had a curious fancy for catching snakes, which she would kill with one bite in the back of the neck and then drag in triumph to the piazza or the kitchen, where she would keep guard over her prey and call for me till I appeared. I could never quite make her understand why she was not as deserving of praise as when she brought in a mole or a mouse; and as long as she lived she hunted for snakes, though after a while she stopped bringing them to the house. She made herself useful by chasing the neighbors' hens from the garden, and grew to be such a tyrant that she would not allow a dog or a cat to come about the place, but rushed out and attacked them in such a savage fashion that after one or two encounters they were glad to keep out of her way.
"Once I saw her put a flock of turkeys to flight. The leader at first resolved to stand his ground. He swelled and strutted and gobbled furiously, exactly as if he were saying, 'Come on, you miserable little black object, you! I'll teach you to fight a fellow of my size. Come on! Come on!' Dinah crouched low, and eyed her antagonist for a moment, then she made a spring, and when he saw the 'black object' flying toward him, every hair bristling, all eyes, and teeth, and claws, the old gobbler was scared half out of his senses, and made off as fast as his long legs would carry him, followed by his troop in the most admired disorder.
"I was very proud of one feat of bravery Dinah accomplished. One of our neighbors owned a large hunting dog and had frequently warned me that if my cat ever had the presumption to attack his dog, Bruno would shake the breath out of her as easy as he could kill a rat. I was inwardly much alarmed at this threat, but I put on a bold front, and assured Mr. Dixon that Dinah Diamond always had come off best in a fight and I believed she always would, and the result justified my boast.
"It happened that Dinah had three little kittens hidden away in the wood-shed chamber, and you can imagine under these circumstances, when even the most timid animals are bold, how fierce such a cat as Dinah would be. Unfortunately for Bruno he chose this time to rummage in the wood-shed for bones. We did not know how the attack began, but suppose Dinah spied him from above, and made a flying leap, lighting most unexpectedly to him upon his back, for we heard one unearthly yell, and out rushed Bruno with his unwelcome burden, her tail erect, her eyes two balls of fire, and every cruel claw, each one as sharp as a needle, buried deep in the poor dog's flesh. How he did yelp!—ki! ki! ki! ki! and how he ran, through the yard and the garden, clearing the fence at a bound, and taking a bee-line for home! Half-way across the street, when Dinah released her hold and slipped to the ground, he showed no disposition to revenge his wrongs, but with drooping ears and tail between his legs kept on his homeward way yelping as he ran. Nor did he ever give my brave cat the opportunity to repeat the attack, for if he chanced to come to the house in his master's company, he always waited at a respectful distance outside the gate.
"It would take too long to tell you all the wonderful things Dinah did, but I am sure you all agree with me that she was a remarkable cat. She came out in a new character when I was ill with an attack of fever. She would not be kept from me. Again and again she was driven from the room where I lay, but she would patiently watch her opportunity and steal in, and when my mother found that she was perfectly quiet and that it distressed me to have her shut out, she was allowed to remain. She would lie for hours at the foot of my bed watching me, hardly taking time to eat her meals, and giving up her dearly loved rambles out of doors to stay in my darkened room. I have thought some times if I had died then Dinah would have died too of grief at my loss. But I didn't die; and when I was getting well we had the best of times, for I shared with her all the dainty dishes prepared for me, and every day gave her my undivided attention for hours. It was about this time that I composed some verses in her praise, half-printing and half-writing them on a sheet of foolscap paper. They ran thus:—
'Who is it that I love so well? I love her more than words can tell. And who of all cats is the belle? My Dinah.
Whose silky fur is dark as night? Whose diamond is so snowy white? Whose yellow eyes are big and bright? Black Dinah.
Who broke the lamp, and in the gloom A ball of fire flew round the room, And just escaped an awful doom? Poor Dinah.
Who, to defend her kittens twain, Flew at big dogs with might and main, And scratched them till they howled with pain? Brave Dinah.
Who at the table takes her seat With all the family to eat, And picks up every scrap of meat? My Dinah.
Who watched beside me every day, As on my feverish couch I lay, And whiled the tedious hours away? Dear Dinah.
And when thou art no longer here, Over thy grave I'll shed a tear, For thou to me wast very dear, Black Dinah.'
"Did you really used to set a chair for her at the table and let her eat with the folks?" Fanny Eldridge asked.
"Well, Fannie, that statement must be taken with some allowance. Occasionally when there was plenty of room she was allowed to sit by me, and I assure you she behaved with perfect propriety. I kept a fork on purpose for her, and when I held it out with a bit of meat on it she would guide it to her mouth with one paw and eat it as daintily as possible. I never knew her to drop a crumb on the carpet. Indeed, I know several boys and girls whose table manners are not as good as Dinah Diamond's."
"I suppose you mean me, Auntie," said Mollie. "Mamma is always telling me I eat too fast, and I know I scatter the bread about sometimes when I'm in a hurry."
"Well, Mollie," said Miss Ruth, laughing, "I was not thinking of you, but if the coat fits, you may put it on."
"What became of Dinah at last, Miss Ruth?"
"She made a sad end, Fannie, for as she grew older her disposition got worse instead of better, until she became so cross and disagreeable that she hadn't a friend left but me. She would scratch and bite little children if they attempted to touch her, and was so cruel to one of her own kittens that we were raising to take her place—for she was too old and infirm to be a good mouser—that we were afraid she would kill the poor thing outright. One morning, after she had made an unusually savage attack on her son Solomon, my mother said: 'We must have that cat killed, and the sooner the better. It isn't safe to keep such an ugly creature a day longer.' Dinah was apparently fast asleep on her cushion in the corner of the kitchen lounge when these words were spoken. In a few minutes she jumped down, walked slowly across the room and out at the kitchen door, and we never saw her again."
"Why, how queer! What became of her?"
"We never knew. We inquired in the neighborhood, and searched the barn and the wood-shed, and in every place we could think of where she would be likely to hide, but we could get no trace of her, and when weeks passed and she did not return we concluded that she was dead."
"You don't think—do you think, Miss Ruth, that she understood what was said and knew if she stayed she would have to be killed?"
"I do," said Mollie, positively. "I'm sure of it!—and so the poor thing went off and drowned herself, or, maybe, died of a broken heart."
"Oh!" said Nellie Dimock, "poor Dinah Diamond!"
"Nonsense, Mollie!" said Susie Elliot. "Cats don't die of broken hearts."
"She had been ailing for some days," Miss Ruth explained, "refusing her food and looking forlorn and miserable, and I am inclined to think instinct taught her that her end was near. You know wild animals creep away into some solitary place to die, and Dinah had a drop or two of wild-cat blood in her veins. I fancy she hid herself in some hole under the barn and died there. It was a curious coincidence, that she should have chosen that particular time, just after her doom was pronounced, to take her departure. But what grieved me most was that, excepting myself, every member of the family rejoiced that she was dead.
"Poor Dinah Diamond! She was beautiful and clever, and constant and brave, but she lived unloved and died unlamented because of her bad temper."
A SWALLOW-TAILED BUTTERFLY.
"If I can't have the seat I want, I won't have any; and I think you are real mean, Mollie Elliot! I ain't coming here any more."
These were the words Miss Ruth heard spoken in loud angry tones as she opened the door connecting her bedroom with the parlor, where the little girls were assembled, and caught a glimpse of an energetic figure in pink gingham running across the lawn that separated the minister's house from his next door neighbor.
"Now, Auntie," said Mollie, in answer to Miss Ruth's look of inquiry, "I am not in the least to blame. I'll leave it to the girls if I am. Fan Eldridge is so touchy! She came in a minute ago and Nellie Tyler happened to be sitting by me, and Fan marched up to her and says, 'I'll take my seat if you please'; and I said, 'It's no more your seat than it is Nellie's,' We don't have any particular seats, you know we don't, Auntie, but sit just as it happens. Well, she declared it was her seat because she had had it the last two afternoons, and I told Nellie not to give up to her because she acted so hateful about it, and then she went off mad. I'm sure I don't care; if she chooses to stay away she can."
"You don't quite mean that, Mollie," her aunt said gravely. "The Patchwork Society can't afford to lose one of its members, certainly not for so small a difference as the choice of a seat. We must have Fanny back, if I give up my seat to her. But come into this room, girls. I have something pretty to show you. Softly! or you will frighten him away."
There was a honeysuckle vine trained close to the window, in full bloom, and darting in and out among the flowers, taking a sip now and then from a honey-cup, or resting on a leaf or twig, was a large butterfly with black-velvet wings and spots and bands of blue and red and yellow.
"O you beauty!" said Miss Ruth. "Do you know, girls, of all the moths and butterflies I have raised from the larvae,—and I have had Painted Ladies, and Luna Moths, and one lovely Cecropia which was the admiration of all beholders,—my favorite has always been the Swallow-tailed? Perhaps it was because he was my first love. I was no older than you, Nellie, when, half curious and half disgusted, I held at arm's length on a bit of fennel-stalk, and dropped in an old ribbon-box Aunt Susan provided for the purpose, the great green worm that, after various stages of insect life, turned into just such a beautiful creature as you see flying about among the flowers. Since then I have raised dozens of them."
"I don't see how you could have any thing to do with worms," said Eliza Jones. "I hate them—the horrid, squirming things!"
"So did I, Eliza, till I studied into their ways and learned what wonderful things they can do; and now, I assure you, I have a high respect and admiration for them."
"Will you tell us about it?" Florence asked. "I've always wanted to know just how worms turned into butterflies,"
"And I should like nothing better than to tell you," she answered. "'Making butterflies,' as a dear little boy once defined my favorite occupation, and telling those who are interested in such things how they are made, is very delightful to me,"
"Come, then, girls, hurry!" said Nellie: "the sooner we get to work the sooner the story will begin. Good-by, Mr. Swallow-tail,—I wonder what they call you so for,—we are going to hear all about you,"
But when they returned to the other room they found Sammy Ray and Roy Tyler on the piazza, close to the open door. Roy beckoned to his sister, and they held a whispered conference during which the words, "You ask her," energetically spoken by Roy, could be plainly heard by those inside.
Nellie turned presently, half laughing, but a little embarrassed.
"The boys want to know if they can't come in," she said. "I tell them it's ridiculous for boys to attend a sewing society, but they won't go away till I've asked."
Here the boys stepped forward and took off their hats. Their faces shone with the scrubbing with soap and water they had given them, and both had on clean collars. Sammy dived in his trowsers pocket and brought out a couple of big brass thimbles and some needles stuck in a bit of flannel.
"We are willing to help sew," said the boy, and bravely stood his ground, though all the girls laughed, and even Miss Ruth looked amused at the sight of these huge implements.
"If we let you in at all, boys," she said, "it must be as guests. What do you say, girls? Suppose we put it to vote. As many of you as are in favor of admitting Samuel Ray and Roy Tyler to the meeting of the Patchwork Quilt Society, now in session, will please to signify it by raising the right hand."
Every hand was lifted.
"It is a unanimous vote," she announced. "Walk in, boys. One more chair, Susie. Now, then, are we ready?"
But this was fated to be a day of interruptions, for while she was speaking the door opened and in walked Lavina Tibbs, bearing a plate piled high with something covered with a napkin.
"Miss Elliot's compliments," she said, "and would the Bed-quilt Society accept some gingerbread for luncheon?" She set the plate on the table, removed the napkin with a flourish, and added on her own account:—
"It's jest out of the oven, an' if it ain't good I don't know how to make soft gingerbread, that's all!"
Good? If you had inhaled its delicious odor, and seen its lovely brown crust and golden interior, you would have longed (as did every boy and girl in the room) to taste it directly; and, having tasted, you would have eaten your share to the last crumb. Miss Ruth gave Susie a whispered direction, and the little girl brought from a corner cupboard a pile of pink-and-white china plates, and napkins with pink borders to correspond. The plates had belonged to Miss Ruth's grandmother, and were very valuable; but Ruth Elliot believed that nothing was too good to be used, and that the feast would be more enjoyable for being daintily served. But when all were helped, she still appeared to think some thing was wanting, and, after looking round the circle, her glance rested upon Mollie. The little girl had been unusually quiet ever since her dispute with Fannie, for she knew very well, though not a word of reproof had been spoken, that her aunt was not pleased with her. She dropped her eyes before Miss Ruth's gaze, and grew red in the face; then suddenly jumping up, she said:—
"I'll go and ask Fan Eldridge to come back, shall I, Auntie? and she may have any seat she likes; I'm sure I don't care."
"Yes, dear," Miss Ruth said, in the tone Mollie loved best to hear, "and be quick, do! or the gingerbread will be cold."
Fannie was standing idly at the window looking toward the parsonage, already repenting of her hasty departure, when Mollie rushed in.
"Come back, Fan, do! we all want you to," she said. "Mamma has sent in some hot gingerbread, and Sam Ray and Roy Tyler are there, and auntie is going to tell us about swallow-tailed butterflies, and she doesn't like to begin without you. Come, now, do! and you may have my seat."
The little girl needed no urging, but her mother interposed.
"Fannie was greatly to blame," Mrs. Eldridge said. "She has told me all about it, and I think she deserves to be punished by staying at home."
"Oh, but please, Mrs. Eldridge," said Mollie, "let her off this time! It was my fault as well as hers, for you see I provoked her by answering back."
"Say you are sorry, Fannie."
"Yes, truly, mamma, I am," said Fannie, with tears in her eyes; "and I'll take any seat, or I'll stand up all the afternoon, if you'll only let me go, and I will try to break myself of getting angry so easy; see if I don't!"
On the strength of these promises Mrs. Eldridge gave her consent, and the little girls crossed the lawn hand-in-hand, in loving companionship. So harmony was restored in the Society, and all ate their gingerbread with a relish. Sammy and Roy would have liked better to have munched their share on the piazza-steps, without plate or napkin. Under the circumstances, however, they behaved very well; for, though Roy took rather large mouthfuls, and Sammy licked his fingers when he thought no one was looking, these were small delinquencies, and you will be glad to know that the girls were too well-bred to appear to notice. Mollie, now fully restored to favor, was allowed to pass the finger-bowl, while Susie collected the plates, distributed the work, and made every thing snug and tidy in the room. Then Miss Ruth commenced the story of
THE SWALLOW-TAILED BUTTERFLY.
"When I was ten years old, my brother Charlie and I spent a summer with Aunt Susan, who lived in the old homestead some miles out of town.
"One night after tea she sent us into the garden to gather some sprigs of fennel for her to take to prayer-meeting—all the old ladies in Vernon took dill or fennel to evening meeting. I had just put my hand to the fennel-bush when I drew it back with a scream.
"'What's the matter?' said Charlie.
"'A great, horrid green worm,' said I. 'I almost touched it!'
"'Here, let me smash him!' said Charlie; 'where is he?'
"'Oh, don't touch him!' I cried; 'he might bite you. Oh, dear, I hate worms! I wonder what they were made for!'
"'That kind was made to turn into butterflies,' said Tim Rhodes.
"Tim was working Aunt Susan's garden on shares that summer, and had heard all we said, for he was weeding the onion-bed close by.
"'What, that fellow!' said Charlie; 'will he turn into a butterfly?' and we both of us looked at the caterpillar. He was about as long and as thick as my little finger, of a bright leafy green, with black-velvet rings dotted with orange at even distances along his body. He lay at full length on a fennel-stalk, and seemed to be asleep; but when Charlie touched him with a little stick, instantly there shot out of his head a pair of orange-colored horns, and the air was full of the pungent odor of fennel.
"'It smells like prayer-meeting,' said Charlie, and ran off to play; but I wanted further information.
"'Mr. Rhodes,' said I, 'how do you know this kind of worm makes butterflies?'
"'Because I've seen 'em do it, child. If you should put that fellow now in a box with some holes in the top, so as he could breathe, and give him plenty of fresh fennel to eat, in a week (or less time if he's full grown) he'll wind himself up, and after a spell he'll hatch out a butterfly—a pretty one, too, I tell you,'
"'I mean to try it,' I said; and I ran to the house and Aunt Susan gave me an old ribbon-box, and Mr. Rhodes punched a few holes in the cover with his pocket-knife; and after a little hesitation I picked the fennel-stalk with the worm on it, and laid it carefully in the box, making sure that the cover was tight. The box was then taken to the house and deposited on a bench in the porch, for Aunt Susan objected to entertaining this new boarder indoors.
"I gave my worm his breakfast the next morning before I had my own, and, forgetting my aversion, sat by the open box and watched him eat, as his strong jaws made clean work with leaf and stem.
"'He isn't so ugly, after all, Charlie,' I said; 'he is almost handsome for a worm, with all those bright colors on him,'
"Then Charlie caught a little of my enthusiasm, and said he meant to keep a worm too. So he searched the fennel-bush and found three, and tumbled them unceremoniously into the box.
"'Now they'll have good times together,' said he; 'that fellow was awful lonesome shut up by himself,'
"At Aunt Susan's suggestion I improved my worm-house by removing the top of the box and stretching mosquito-netting across, fastening it securely along the edges lest my prisoners should escape. And it was well I took this precaution; for, though for several days they made no attempt to get away, and seemed to do nothing but eat and sleep, one morning I found my largest and handsomest worm in a very disturbed and restless condition. He was making frantic efforts to escape. Up and down, round and round, over and under his companions, who were still quietly feeding, without a moment's pause, he was pushing his way. I watched him till I was tired; but when I left him he was still on his travels.
"In the afternoon, however, he had settled himself half-way up the side of his house. His head was moving slowly from side to side, and a fine white thread was coming out of his mouth. When I looked again he had fastened himself to the box by the tip of his tail and by a loop of fine silk passing round the upper part of his body. There he hung motionless two, three, almost four, days. The green and orange and black faded little by little, his body shrank to half its size, and he looked withered, unsightly, dead. I thought he was dead; but Tim Rhodes (who all along had shown a friendly interest in my pursuit) took a look at my poor dead worm,' and pronounced him all right.
"'Keep a watch on him this afternoon,' said Tim,' and you'll see something queer,'
"So we did; and Aunt Susan was summoned to the porch by the news that 'the worm had split in the back and was coming out of his skin.' By the time she had got on her glasses and was ready to witness this wonderful sight, it was over. A heap of dried skin lay in the bottom of the box, and a pretty chrysalis of a delicate green color hung in place of the worm.
"'O Auntie!' said Charlie, 'you ought to have seen him twist and squirm and make the split in his back bigger and bigger till it burst open and tumbled off, just as a boy wriggles out of a tight coat, you know!'
"After this came three weeks of waiting, during which the green chrysalis turned gray and hard and the other worms, one by one, went through the same changes, until four gray chrysalis were fastened to the sides of the box.
"Every day I looked, but nothing happened, until it seemed to me, tired of waiting, that nothing ever would happen. But one bright morning I forgot all my weariness when I found, clinging to the netting, a beautiful creature like the one we saw on the honeysuckle this afternoon, with a slender black body and wings spotted with yellow and scarlet and lovely blue. When I opened the box he didn't try to fly. He was weak and trembling, and his wings were damp, but every moment they grew larger and his colors brighter in the sunshine.
"While Charlie and I stood watching him, we discussed, in our own way, a problem that has puzzled wiser heads than ours—how three distinct individuals (the worm, the chrysalis, and the butterfly) could be one and the same creature, and how from a low-born worm that groveled and crawled could be born this bright ethereal being—all light and beauty and color—that seemed fitted only for the sky.
"Aunt Susan listened to our talk a while and then repeated a text of Scripture:—
"'Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body?'"
"While we talked the butterfly grew stronger and more beautiful, until at last, spreading his wings to their widest extent, he darted high into the air and we lost him. But from the day I took the green worm from the fennel-bush in Aunt Susan's garden I date my introduction to a delightful study which I have followed all my life as I have found opportunity. So you see it is no wonder I am fond of the swallow-tailed butterfly; and I have another reason, for once on a time I tamed one so that it sucked honey from my finger."
"Auntie, you are joking!"
"Indeed, no. It was a poor little waif which, mistaking chimney heat for warm spring weather, hatched himself out of season, and whose life I prolonged by providing him with food."
"The dear little thing! Tell us about it, please."
"Well, I had put away some chrysalids for the winter in a closet in my sleeping-room, and one day my nurse—I was ill at the time—heard a rustling in the box where they lay and brought it to me for investigation; and, behold! when I opened it there was a full-grown swallow-tail, who, waking too soon from his winter's nap, left the soft bed of cotton where his companions lay sleeping side by side and, wide awake and ready to fly, was impatiently waiting for some one to let him out into the sunshine.
"But the March sunshine was fitful and pale, and the cold wind would have chilled him to death before night; so we resolved to keep him indoors. We gave him the liberty of the room, and he fluttered about the plants in the window, now and then taking a flight to the ceiling, where, I am sorry to say, he bruised his delicate wings; but he seemed to learn wisdom by experience, for after a while he contented himself with a lower flight. Every day my bed was wheeled close to the window, and I amused myself for hours watching my pretty visitor. He would greedily suck a drop of honey, diluted with water, from the leaf of a plant or from the end of my finger, and by sight or smell, perhaps by both senses, soon learned where to go for his dinner.
"And so he lived and thrived for a fortnight, and I had hopes of keeping him till spring; but one cold night the furnace fire went out, and in the morning my pretty swallow-tail lay dead on the window-sill. Wasn't it a pity?
"Oh," said Florence, "I like to hear about butterflies! Will you please tell us about some of the other kinds you have kept?"
"Tell us about that big fellow you said every body made a fuss over. Ce-ce—I can't remember what you called him."
"Cecropia!" said Susie, promptly. "Yes, do, Auntie! if you are not tired."
If Ruth Elliot had been ever so weary I think she would have forgotten it at sight of the interested faces of her audience; but in fact she was not in the least tired, but was as pleased to tell as they were to listen to the story of
THE CECROPIA MOTH.
"One day in November," she said, "a man who used to do odd jobs about the place for my father, and whom we always called Josh,—his name was Joshua Wheeler,—left his work to bring to the house and put into my hand a queer-looking pod-shaped package firmly fastened to a stout twig. It was of a rusty gray color and looked as much like a thick wad of dirty brown paper as any thing I can think of.
"'I found this 'ere cur'us lookin' thing,' he said, 'under a walnut-tree on the hill yonder, where I was rakin' up leaves—an', thinks I, there's some kind of a crittur stored away inside, an' Miss Ruth she's crazy arter bugs an' worms an' sich like varmints, an' mebbe she'd like to see what comes out o' this 'ere; so I've fetched it along.'
"You may be sure I thanked him heartily and gave him a sixpence besides, which I am afraid went to buy tobacco. 'Law, Doctor, don't I know it?' Josh used to reply when my father urged him to break off a habit that was making a shaky old man of him at sixty; 'don't I know it's a dretful bad habit; but then you see a body must have somethin' to be a-chawin' on.'
"But what was in the brown package? That was the question I puzzled my brains over. I had never seen a cocoon in the least like it before, and I had no book on entomology to help me. With the point of a needle I carefully picked away the outer layer till I came to loose silken fibers that evidently were the covering of an inside case. Whatever was there was snugly tucked away in a little inner chamber with the key inside, and I must wait with what patience I could command till he chose to open the door.
"I kept my precious cocoon all winter in a cold, dry place; but when warm spring weather came it lay in state on my work-table, in a box lined with cotton, where I could watch it all day long. Nothing happened till one bright day in June I heard a faint scratching inside the brown case. It grew louder and louder every moment. Evidently my tenant was bestirring himself and, with intervals of rest, was scraping and tearing away his silken wrappings. Presently an opening was made and out of this were poked two bushy legs with claws that held fast by the outside of his house, while the creature gradually pulled himself out.
"First a head with horns; then a part of the body and two more legs; then, with one tremendous effort, he was free!—an odd beast of no particular color, looking exceedingly damp and disagreeable, with his fat chunky body and short legs, like an exaggerated bumble-bee, only not at all pretty. He was shaky on his legs and half tumbled from his box to the window-sill, along which he walked trembling till he came to the tassel of the shade, just within his reach. This he grabbed with all four claws, his wings hanging down.
"'It's nothing but a homely old brown bug!' said my brother Charlie, whom I had called to see the sight.
"'No,' I said, "'it isn't a bug. I'm sure I don't know what it is,'
"I was ready to cry with disappointment and vexation, for I had expected great things from my brown chrysalis.
"The tassel was gently swaying with the weight of the clumsy creature, and in the warm sunshine which was gradually drying body and wings faint colors began to show—a dull red, a dash of white, a wavy band of gray, with patches of soft brown that began to look downy like feathers. Every moment these colors grew more distinct and took new shapes. None of them were bright, but they were beautifully blended and the whole body was of the texture of the finest velvet.
"But the wings! How can I describe to you how those thick, crumpled, unsightly appendages grew and grew, changing in color from a dingy black to a dark brown, with bands of gray and red? how the great white patches took distinct form, and some were dashed with red and bordered with black, and others eye-shaped with crescents of pale blue? It must have taken an hour for all this to come about—for the great wings to unfurl to their widest extent and the cecropia moth to show himself in all his beauty to our admiring gaze.
"The whole family had gathered to see the show. My father lingered, hat and riding-whip in hand, though he had a round of twenty miles to make among his patients before night; and Aunt Susan, who was on a visit, stood peering through her spectacles, too much absorbed to notice black Dinah taking a nap in her work-basket and the kitten making sad havoc with her knitting. Josh was called in from the wood-shed, and, with his hat on the back of his head and hands deep in his pockets, gazed in silence.
"'Wal,' he said at length, 'if that don't beat all natur'! Look at the size of that crittur, will you, and the hole he's jest crawled out of. Why, he's as big as a full-grown bat, measures full seven inches across from wing to wing. Wal, now, I'd gin consider'ble to know what's be'n goin' on for a spell back in that leetle house where he's passed his time; and I'll bet, Doctor, with all your larnin', you can't tell.'"
FURRY-PURRY BECOMING GOLD ELSIE.
Miss Ruth found on her table the next Wednesday afternoon a note very neatly and carefully written, which read as follows:—
Miss RUTH,—Will you Please tell us Another Cat Story, becaus I like them best. So does Fannie Eldridge she said So after You told Worm stories.
Miss Ruth I Have Named my Black Kitty After your Dinah Diamond, her Last Name has to Be Spot Becaus her Spot is not a Diamond, this is from your Friend.
"I hold in my hand," Miss Ruth said, when she had carefully perused this epistle, "a written request from two members of our Society for another cat story. Susie and Mollie, have I any more cat stories worth telling?"
"Yes, indeed, Auntie" said Mollie. "Don't you remember the pretty fairy story you used to tell us about the good little girl who saved a cat from being drowned by some bad boys, and carried her home? and she turned out to be a fairy cat and gave that girl every thing she wished for—cakes and candy, and a lovely pink silk frock packed in a nutshell for her to wear to the party?"
"O Mollie! that's too much of a baby story," said Susie. "Tell us about the musical cat who played the piano by walking over the keys, and all the people in the house thought it was a ghost."
"Yes, Auntie; and the funny story of the cat and the parrot—how the parrot got stuck up to her knees in a pan of dough, and in her fright said over every thing she had learned to say: 'Polly wants a cracker!' 'Oh, my goodness' sakes alive!' 'Get out, I say!' 'Here's a row!' 'Scat, you beast!' and so on;—and how the cat got her out."
"These are old stories, girls, and you have told them for me."
"Our old cat Jane," said Eliza Ann Jones, "is a regular cheat. You see, she would lie in grandma's chair. She used to jump in if grandma left it only for a minute; and grandma wouldn't know she was there, and two or three times sat right down on her. Why, it was just awful, and scared poor grandma half to death. Well, ma whipped the old cat every time she caught her in the chair, and we thought she was cured of the habit; but one day ma came into the room and there was nobody there but Jane, and she was stretched on the rug and seemed to be fast asleep; but grandma's chair was rocking away all by itself. Ma wondered what made the chair go, so she thought she'd watch. She left the door on a crack and peeped through, and as soon as the cat thought she was alone she jumped into the chair and settled herself for a nap; but when ma made a little noise, as if somebody were coming out, she hopped out and stretched herself on the rug and made believe she was fast asleep. 'Twas her jumping out so quick that set the chair rocking. Now, wasn't that cute?"
"I never knew till the other day," said Florence Austin, "that cats scatter crumbs to attract the birds, and then watch for them and spring out on the poor things when they are feeding."
"What a shame! I wouldn't keep a cat who played such a cruel trick," Mollie said.
"My Dinah Spot doesn't catch birds or chickens," said Nellie Dimock; "only mice."
Mrs. Elliot had come in with a message to her sister while this talk went on, and had lingered to hear Eliza's story of old Jane.
"Girls," she said, "with your President's permission, I will tell you a story about a cat. It is curious, because it proves that a cat remembers and reasons much as a man or woman would in similar circumstances. Susie and Mollie, I have told it to you before, but you will not mind hearing it again.
"When my brother Charles was a young man he kept a bachelor establishment in the country, and with other pets owned a beautiful gray cat he had; brought with him from Germany. She was very intelligent and docile, a great favorite with her master, and was allowed many privileges in the house. She came in and out through a small door cut in the side of the house which she opened and closed for herself. A chair was regularly placed for her at the table; she slept at the foot of my brother's bed, and perched herself on his shoulder when he took a stroll in the garden. She could distinguish the sound of his bell from any other in the house, and was greatly disturbed if the servant delayed in answering his call.
"One summer my sister Helen and her two boys were staying with Charles, and in the midst of the visit he was called away on business, and was absent for several weeks. Now, Carl and Teddy were dear little fellows, but full of mischief; and in their uncle's absence they so teased and tormented poor Miess, taking advantage of her amiable disposition, that she was forced at length to keep out of their way. About a week before Charles came home she had kittens, which she carefully hid behind a heavy book-case in the library.
"The morning of his return he had the cat in his lap petting and caressing her as usual, and then went out for an hour. As soon as he was gone, pussy brought her kittens one by one from their hiding-place and laid them on the rug in the corner of the room where she had nursed and tended all her young families before. Now she must have reasoned in this way: 'My good, kind master has come home, and those dreadful boys who have pinched my ears and tied things to my tail, and teased and frightened me almost to death, will be made to behave themselves. All danger to me and to my babies is over. Why must the pretty dears be hidden away in that musty place? Of course master wants to see them, and they are well worth looking at. The thing for me to do is to bring them out of that dark hole and put them where I always have put my kittens before.'"
"Wise old Miess!" said Mollie. "Mamma, please tell the girls how she saved uncle's pet canary from a strange cat."
"Yes, dear. Miess was so obedient and well trained that her master often trusted her in the room while he gave the bird his airing, and Bobby became so accustomed to the cat's presence that he hopped fearlessly about the floor close to pussy's rug, and more than once lighted on her back; but one day your uncle discovered Miess on the table with the bird in her mouth. For an instant he thought her cat nature had got the upper hand, and that Bobby's last moment had come; then he discovered a strange cat in the room and knew that his good cat had saved the canary's life. As soon as the intruder was driven out, Bobby fluttered away safe and sound."
"Wasn't that nice of Miess, Auntie?" said Susie. "I have thought of a story for you to tell us this afternoon—the story of the barn-cat that wanted so much to become a house-cat. Don't you remember that story you used to tell us long ago?"
"Oh, yes!" Mollie said; "her name was Furry-Purry, and she lived with Granny Barebones, and there was Tom—Tom—some thing; what was his name? Tell us that, Aunt Ruth, do!"
"Isn't it open to the objection you made to Mollie's choice a while ago, Susie?" she asked. "I remember it went with 'The Three Bears' and 'Old Mother Pig' and 'The Little Red Hen.'"
"No, Auntie, I think not; it's different, somehow."
"Very well, then, if you are sure you haven't outgrown it."
"Is it a true story?" Nellie Dimock wanted to know.
"It is made out of a true story, Nellie. A young cat which was born and brought up in a barn became dissatisfied with her condition in life, and made up her mind to change it. She chose the house of a friend of mine for her future home, and presented herself every morning at the door, asking in a very earnest and humble way to be taken in. When driven away she went sadly and reluctantly, but in a few moments was back again waiting patiently, quietly, hour after hour, day after day. If noticed or spoken to, she gave a plaintive mew, looked cold and hungry, but showed no signs of discouragement. She didn't once try to steal into the house, as she might have done, but waited patiently for an invitation.
"And when one morning she brought a mouse and laid it on the door-step, and looking up, seemed to say: 'Kind lady, if you will take me for your cat, see what I will do for you,' my friend could no longer refuse. The door was opened, the long-wished-for invitation was given, and very soon the little barn-cat became the pet and plaything of the family. She proved a valuable family cat, and her descendants, to the fourth generation, are living in my friend's family to-day.
"Out of these materials I have dressed up the story of
HOW FURRY-PURRY BECAME GOLD ELSIE.
"The door of the great house stood open and Furry-Purry looked in.
"Furry-Purry was a small yellow cat striped down the back with a darker shade of the same color. Her paws, the lower part of her body, and the spot on her breast were white.
"This is what the little cat saw, looking through the open door into the great house:—
"A pleasant room hung with pictures, the floor covered with a soft carpet, where all kinds of bright-colored flowers seemed to be growing, and, in the sunniest corner, lying in an arm-chair piled with cushions, a large tabby cat.
"Just then a gust of wind closed the door, and Furry-Purry ran round the house to the barn and remained all day hidden in her hole under the boards.
"That night there was a storm, and several cats in the neighborhood crept into the barn for safety. There was old Mrs. Barebones, a cat with a bad cough, which was thought to be in a decline; Tom Skip-an'-jump, a sprightly young fellow with a tenor voice which he was fond of using on moonlight nights; and Robber Grim, a fierce, one-eyed creature—the pest of the neighborhood—with a great head and neck and flabby, hanging cheeks and bare spots on his tawny coat where the fur had been torn out in his fierce battles.
"The thunder roared overhead and the lightning, shining through the cracks, played on the barn floor and showed the cats sitting gravely in a circle. Only Tom Skip-an'-jump, who still kept his kittenish tricks, went frisking after his tail and turning somersaults in the hay. Presently he tumbled over Furry-Purry and bit her ear.
"'Come, play!' said he: 'it's a jolly time for puss-in-the-corner.'
"'Tom,' said Furry-Purry, 'I never shall play again. I am very unhappy. I have seen Mrs. Tabitha Velvetpaw lying on a silk cushion, while I make my bed in the hay. She walks on a lovely soft carpet, and I have only this barn floor. O Tom, I want to be a house-cat.'
"'A house-cat!' repeated Tom disdainfully. 'They sleep all day. They get their tails pulled and their ears pinched by horrid monsters with only two legs to walk on, and nights—beautiful moonlight nights when we barn-cats are roaming the alleys and singing on the roofs and having a good time generally—they are locked in cellars and garrets and made to watch rat-holes. Oh, no! not for Tom.'
"He was off with a whisk of his tail to the highest beam in the barn, looking down on them with the greenest of green eyes, and singing,—
'Some love the home Of a lazy drone, And a bed on a cushioned knee; But in wild free ways I will spend my days, And at night on the roofs I'll be.
Oh, 'tis my delight, On a moonlight night'—
"'Don't listen to him, my dear,' said Mrs. Barebones, the consumptive cat; 'he's a wild, thoughtless creature, quite inexperienced in the ways of the world. Heed the counsels of one whose sands of life are almost run and who, before she goes to the land of cats, would fain warn a youthful friend and, if possible, avert her from her own sad fate. This racking cough (ugh! ugh!) and this distressing cat-arrh, (snuff! snuff!) with which you see me afflicted were brought on by the hardships and exposure incident to the life of a barn-cat: midnight rambles, my dear (ugh!), in frost and snow; days when not so much as a mouse's tail has passed my hungry jaws, and winter nights when my coat was too thin to keep out the cold. And all these sufferings, past and present, are in consequence of my being a barn-cat.'
"'Now, may the dogs get me, if I ever heard such a string of nonsense!' said Robber Grim. 'Don't believe a word she says. She's an old granny. She's got the fidgets. She wants a dose of catnip-tea. Don't believe Tom Skip-an'-jump, either. What does he know about war? He never was shot at. Look at me! I'm Robber Grim! I'm an old one, I am! I've got good blood in my veins. My great-grandfather was a catamount and his grandmother was a tiger-cat. I've been in a hundred battles. I've had one eye knocked out and an ear bit off. I left a piece of my tail in a trap. I've been scalded with hot water and peppered all over with shot. I'll teach you how to get a living without being a house-cat. I hate houses and the people who live in them, and I do them all the mischief I can. I eat up their chickens and I suck their eggs. I climb in at the pantry window and skim their milk. Once when the cook left the kitchen door open I snatched the beefsteak from the gridiron and made off with the family dinner. They hate me—they do. They've tried to kill me a dozen times; but I'm Robber Grim, ha! ha! and I've got nine lives!'
"At this instant there came a flash of lightning, followed by a peal of thunder that shook the barn to its foundations, and every cat fled in terror to its hole.
"The next morning Mrs. Tabitha Velvetpaw took a stroll round the garden and down the lane a little way, where the catnip grew. The ground was wet after the shower, and she was daintily picking her way along, very careful not to soil her beautiful feet, of which she was justly proud, when suddenly there glided from behind a tree and stood directly in her path a small yellow cat.
"'Oh, my paws and whiskers!' exclaimed Mrs. Tabitha, surprised out of her usual dignity.
"'If you please,' said Furry-Purry,—for it was she,—'I have made bold to come out and meet you to ask your advice. I am a poor little barn-cat, and I was contented with my lot till I saw you yesterday in your beautiful home; but now I feel that I was intended for a higher sphere. Tell me—oh, tell me, Mrs. Velvetpaw, how I may become a house-cat!'
"'Well, did I ever!' said Mrs. Velvetpaw. 'The idea!' and she moved a step or two away from poor Furry-Purry, her manner, as well as her words, expressing astonishment and disdain.
"'I know it seems presuming, Mrs. Velvetpaw, but'—
"'Presuming! I should say so. What is this generation of cats coming to, when a low creature reared in a barn—a paw-paw (pauper) cat, as I may say—dare lift her eyes to those so far above her?'
"'I have heard my mother say "a cat may look at a king,"' said Furry-Purry.
"'Go away, you low-born creature! How dare you quote your mother to me? Go away, this instant! I am ashamed to be seen talking with you! What if my friend Mrs. Silvercoat or Major Mouser should happen to pass! Begone, I say! scat!'
"'O Mrs. Tabitha,' said the poor little cat, 'don't send me away! I can't go back to that barn. Indeed, indeed, after spending this short time in your company, I can never endure to live with Tom Skip-an'-jump and Mrs. Barebones and that horrid Robber Grim. If you refuse to help me I will go straight to Growler's kennel. When he has worried me to death, won't you be sorry you drove me to such a fate? Dear, dear Mrs. Velvetpaw, your face is kinder than your words. Oh, pity the sorrows of a poor little cat!'
"Now, Mrs. Tabitha was not at heart an ill-natured puss; and when she saw Furry-Purry's imploring face, and listened to her eloquent appeal, she was moved with compassion.
"'Rather than see you go to the dogs,' said she, 'I will lend a paw to help you. But what can I do, you silly thing?'
"'Mrs. Velvetpaw, you have lived a long time in this neighborhood?'
"'All my life, Yellow Cat.'
"'And you know every body?'
"'If you mean in the first rank of society—yes. Your Barebones, and Hop-an'-jumps, and creatures of that vulgar herd, are quite out of my category.'
"'Perhaps you know of some house-cat dead or gone away?'
"'And if I do?'
"'You might put me in her place, you know.'
"'Yellow Cat,' said Mrs. Tabitha, severely.
"'If you please, my name is Furry-Purry.'
"'Well, Furry-Purry, then. Your presumption can only be pardoned in consideration of your ignorance of the usages of society. House-cats, you must know, hold their position in families by hereditary descent. My place, for instance, was my mother's and my grandmother's before me. We are prepared by birth and education for the position we occupy. Have you considered how utterly unfitted you are for the life to which you aspire? I am sorry to disappoint you, but I fear your hopes are vain. There is, indeed, a vacancy in the brick house opposite. Caesar—a venerable cat—died last week. He was much admired for his gentlemanly and dignified deportment. "Who shall come after the king?"'
"'I, Mrs. Tabitha, I'—
"'You, indeed!' she interrupted, scornfully.
"'Oh, yes, if you will but condescend to give me instructions. I am quick to learn. The short time I have been so happy as to be in your company I have gained much knowledge. I am sure I can imitate the mew-sic of your voice. I know I can gently wave my tail, and touch my left whisker with my paw as you do. When I leave you I shall spend every moment till we meet again in practising your airs and graces, till I make them all my own. Dear friend,—if you will let me call you so,—help me to King Caesar's place.'
"There was much that was flattering to Mrs. Velvetpaw in this speech.
"'Well,' said she, 'I will see what can be done. There, go home now, and the first thing to be done is to make yourself perfectly clean. Wash yourself twelve times in the day, from the end of your nose to the tip of your tail. Take particular pains with your paws. A cat of refinement is known by the delicacy and cleanliness of her feet. Farewell! After three days, meet me here again.'
"You can imagine how faithfully Furry-Purry followed these directions—how with her sharp tongue she smoothed and stroked every hair of her pretty coat, and washed her face again and again with her wet paws.
"'You are wretchedly thin!' Mrs. Tabitha said at their next meeting. 'That fault can only be remedied by a generous diet. You must look me full in the face when I talk to you. Really, you have no need to be ashamed of your eyes, for they are decidedly bright and handsome. When you walk, don't bend your legs till your body almost touches the ground. That gives you a wretchedly hang-cat appearance. Tread softly and daintily, but with dignity and grace of carriage. There must be other bad habits I have not mentioned.'
"'I am afraid I spit sometimes.'
"'Don't do that—it is considered vulgar. Don't bristle your tail. Don't show your claws except to mice. Keep such control over yourself as never to be surprised out of a dignified composure of manner.'
"Just here, without the slightest warning, there rushed from the thicket near them a large fierce-looking dog. Up went Mrs. Velvetpaw's back in an arch. Every hair of her body stood on end. Sharp-pointed claws protruded from each velvet foot, and, hissing and spitting, she tumbled over Furry-Purry in her haste, and scrambled to the topmost branch of the pear-tree. The little cat followed, imitating her guide in every particular. As for the dog, which was in pursuit of game, he did not even look at them; and when he was out of sight they came down from the tree, Mrs. Tabitha descending with the dignified composure she had just recommended to her young friend. She made no allusion to her hurried ascent.
"'To-morrow night,' said she, 'as soon as it is dark, meet me in the backyard of the brick house.'
"Half glad and half frightened, Furry-Purry walked by her side the next evening, delighting in the soft green turf of the yard and the sweet-smelling shrubs against which she ventured to rub herself as they passed. Mrs. Tabitha led her round the house to a piazza draped with clustering vines.
"'Come here to-morrow,' said she. 'Walk boldly up the steps and seat yourself in full view of that window. Look your prettiest—behave your best. Assume a pensive expression of countenance, with your eyes uplifted—so. If you are driven away, go directly, but return. Be strong, be brave, be persevering. Now, my dear, I have done all I can for you, and I wish you good luck,'
"The next morning a little girl living in the brick house, whose name was Winnie Gay, looked out of the dining-room window.
"'Come quick, mamma!' she called; 'here's a cat on our piazza—a little yellow cat, and she's looking right up at me. May I open the door?'
"'No, indeed!' said Mrs. Gay; 'we want no strange cats here.'
"'But she looks hungry, mamma. She has just opened her mouth at me without making a bit of noise. Can't I give her a saucer of milk?'
"'Come away from the window, Winnie, and don't notice her. You will only encourage her to come again. There, pussy, run away home; we can't have you here.'
"'Now, mamma, you have frightened her. See how she keeps looking back. I'm afraid you've hurt her feelings. Dear little pussy! I wish I might call you back.'
"Furry-Purry was not discouraged at this her first unsuccessful attempt. The child's blue eyes beamed a welcome, and the lady's face was gentle and kind.
"'If I catch a mouse,' thought the cat, 'and bring it to them to show what I can do, perhaps I shall gain their favor.' Then she put away all the fine airs and graces Mrs. Velvetpaw had taught her, and became the sly, supple, watchful creature nature had made her. By a hole in the granary she crouched and waited with unwearied patience one, two, almost three, hours. Then she gave a sudden spring, there was one sharp little shriek from the victim, a snap of pussy's jaws, and her object was accomplished. She appeared again on the piazza, and, laying a dead mouse on the floor, crouched beside it in an attitude of perfect grace, and looked beseechingly in Mrs. Gay's face.
"'Well, you are a pretty creature!' that lady said, 'with your soft white paws and yellow coat,'
"'May I have her for my cat, mamma?' Winnie said. 'I thought I never should love another cat when dear old Caesar died; but this little thing is such a beauty that I love her already. May I have her for mine?'
"But while Mrs. Gay hesitated, Furry-Purry, who could not hear what they said, and who, to tell the truth, was in a great hurry to eat her mouse, ran off with it to the barn. The next morning, however, she came again, and Mr. Gay, who was waiting for his breakfast, was called to the window.
"'My cat has come again, papa, with another mouse—a monstrous one, too.'
"'That isn't a mouse,' Mr. Gay said, looking at the plump, silver-gray creature Furry-Purry carefully deposited on the piazza-floor. 'Bless me! I believe it is that rascal of a mole that's gnawed my hyacinth and tulip bulbs. I offered the gardener's boy two dollars if he would catch the villain. To whom does that cat belong, Winnie? She's worth her weight in gold.'
"'I don't believe she belongs to anybody, papa; but I think she wants to belong to us, for she keeps coming and coming. May I have her for mine? I am sure mamma will say yes if you are willing.'
"'Why not?' said he. 'Run for a saucer of milk, and we will coax her in.'
"We who are acquainted with Furry-Purry's private history know how little coaxing was needed.
"As soon as the door was opened she walked in, and, laying the dead mole at Mr. Gay's feet, rubbed herself against his leg, purred gently, looked up into his face with her round bright eyes, and, in very expressive cat language, claimed him for her master. When he stooped to caress her, and praised and petted her for the good service she had rendered him, the happy creature rolled over and over on the soft carpet in an ecstasy of delight.
"Then Winnie clapped her hands for joy.
"'You are our own cat,' she said. 'You shall have sugar and cream to eat. You shall lie on Caesar's silk cushion; and because you are yellow, and papa says you are worth your weight in gold, your name shall be Gold Elsie,'
"So Furry-Purry became a family cat.
"The first time she met Mrs. Velvetpaw after this change in her life, that excellent tabby looked at her with evident admiration.
"'How handsome you have grown!' said she; 'your eyes are topaz, your breast and paws are the softest velvet, your coat is spun gold. My dear, you are the belle of cats,'
"'Dear Mrs. Velvetpaw,' said Gold Elsie, 'my beauty and my prosperity I owe in large measure to you. But for your wise counsels I should still be a'—
"'Hush! don't speak the word. My dear, never again allude to your origin. It is a profound secret. You are received in the best society. Mrs. Silvercoat tells me it is reported that your master sought far and wide to find a worthy successor to King Caesar, and that he esteems himself specially fortunate in that, after great labor and expense, he procured you. The ignorance you sometimes exhibit of the customs of genteel society is attributed to your foreign breeding.'
"'Mrs. Tabitha, I feel at times a strong desire to visit my old friends in the barn once more.'
"'Let me entreat you, my dear Miss Elsie, never again to think of it.'
"'But there is poor Mrs. Barebones almost gone with a consumption. I should like to show her some kindness.'
"'Her sufferings are ended. She has passed to the land of cats,'
"'Poor Mrs. Barebones! and Robber Grim? Do you happen to have heard any thing of him?'
"Silently Mrs. Tabitha beckoned her to follow, and, leading the way to the orchard, pointed to a sour-apple tree, where Gold Elsie beheld a ghastly sight. By a cord tied tightly about his neck, his jaws distended, his one eye starting from its socket, hung Robber Grim—stiff, motionless, dead.
"They hurried away, and presently Gold Elsie timidly inquired after her former playmate, Tom Skip-an'-jump.
"'Don't, my dear!' said Mrs. Velvetpaw; 'really, I can not submit to be farther catechized. If you are truly grateful to me, Elsie, for the service I have rendered you, and wish to do me credit in the high position to which I have raised you, you must, you certainly must, break every tie that binds you to your former life.'
"'I will, Mrs. Tabitha, I will,' said the little cat; and never again in Mrs. Velvetpaw's presence did she mention Tom Skip-an'-jump's name,"
"And didn't she ever see him again?" Nellie Dimock wanted to know. "I am sure there was no harm in Tom."
"Well, but you know she couldn't go with that set any more after she had got into good society," said Mollie Elliot.
"Mollie has caught Mrs. Velvetpaw's exact tone," said Florence Austin, at which all the girls laughed.
"Well, I don't care," Mollie answered; "she was a nice little cat, and deserved all her good fortune."
TOMMY TOMPKINS' YELLOW DOG.
"I have a letter to read to you this afternoon, girls," said Miss Ruth; "also the story of a yellow dog. The letter is from a friend of mine who spends her summers in a quiet village in Maine, in a fine old mansion overlooking green fields and a beautiful lake with hills sloping down to it on every side. Here is the letter she wrote me last June:—
"'We have come back again to our summer home—to the old house, the broad piazza, the high-backed chairs, and the blue china. The clump of cinnamon roses across the way is one mass of spicy bloom, and soon its fragrance will be mingled with that of new-mown hay. There is nothing new about the place but Don Quixote, the great handsome English mastiff. Do you know the mastiff—his lion-like shape, his smooth, fawn-colored coat, his black nose, and kind, intelligent eyes, their light-hazel contrasting with the black markings around them? If you do, you must pardon this description.
"'I am very fond of Don, and he of me. He belongs to our cousin, whose house is but one field removed from ours; but he is here much of the time. He evidently feels that both houses are under his protection, and passes his nights between the two. Often we hear his slow step as he paces the piazza round and round like a sentinel. He is only fifteen months old, and of course feels no older than a little dog, though he weighs one hundred and thirty pounds, and measures six feet from nose to tail.
"'He can't understand why he isn't a lap-dog, and does climb our laps after his fashion, putting up one hind leg and resting his weight upon it with great satisfaction. We have good fun with him out of doors, where his puppyhood quite gets the better of his dignity, and he runs in circles and fetches mad bounds of pure glee.
"'One day, lying in my hammock, with Don on the piazza at my feet, I put his charms and virtues together in verses, and I send them to you as the most succinct account I can give of my new pet. As I conned them over, repeating them half-aloud, at the frequent mention of his name Don raised his head with an intelligent and appreciative look. Here are the verses. I call them
'Don! Don! beautiful Don! Graceful and tall, with majestic mien, Fawn-colored coat of the softest sheen, The stateliest dog that the sun shines on, Beautiful Don!
Don! Don! frolicsome Don! Chasing your tail at a game of tag, Dancing a jig with a kitchen rag, Rearing and tearing, and all for fun, Frolicsome Don!
Don! Don! affectionate Don! Looking your love with soft kind eyes, Climbing our laps, quite forgetting your size; With kissing and coaxing you never are done, Affectionate Don!
Don! Don! chivalrous Don! Stalking all night piazza and yard, Sleepless and watchful, our sentinel guard, Squire of dames is the name you have won, Chivalrous Don!
Don! Don! devotional Don! When the Bible is opened you climb to your place, And listen with solemn, immovable face, Nor frolic nor coax till the chapter is done, Devotional Don!
Don! Don! wonderful Don! Devotional, faithful, affectionate one, If owning these virtues when only a pup, What will you be when you are grown up? Wonderful Don!'
"And now by way of contrast," said Miss Ruth as she folded the letter, "I have a story to tell you of a poor little forlorn, homely, insignificant dog, of low birth and no breeding, which was picked up on the street by a boy I know, and which made for himself friends and a good home by seizing the first opportunity that offered to do his duty and protect the property of those who had taken him in. I have no doubt that Don Quixote, intelligent, faithful, kind, with not a drop of plebeian blood in his noble body, will fulfill all the expectations of his friends, and we shall hear of many a brave and gallant deed of his performing; but when you have heard what Tommy Tompkins has to tell, I think you will say that not even Don Quixote could have done himself more credit under the circumstances than
TOMMY TOMPKINS' YELLOW DOG.
"Tommy shall tell the story as he told it to me:—
"'Yes, marm, he's my dog. His name's Grip. My father paid five dollars for that dog. You look as if you thought he wasn't worth it; but I wouldn't take twice the money for him, not if you was to pay it over this minute. I know he ain't a handsome dog. I don't think yellow is a pretty color for a dog, do you? and I wish he had a little more of a tail. Liz says he's cur-tailed (Liz thinks it's smart to make puns), but he'll look a great deal better when his ear gets well and his hair grows out and covers the bare spots—don't you think so? But father says, "Handsome is that handsome does," and nobody can say but that our dog did the handsome thing when he saved over two hundred dollars in money and all mother's silver spoons and lots of other things from being stolen—hey, Grip? We call him Grip 'cause he hung on to that fellow so till the policeman got in to take him.
"'What fellow? Why, the burglar, of course. Didn't you read about it in the newspaper? There was a long piece published about it the day after it happened, with headings in big letters: "The house No. 35 Wells Avenue, residence of Thomas Tompkins, the well-known dealer in hardware, cutlery, etc., was entered last night by burglars. Much valuable property saved through the courage and pluck of a small dog belonging to the family." They didn't get that part right, for he didn't belong to us then. You just wait, and I'll read the whole piece to you. I've got it somewhere in my pockets. You see, I cut it out of the paper to read to the boys at school.
"'You'd rather I told you about it? Well. Lie down, Grip! Be quiet! can't you? He don't mean any thing by sniffing round your ankles in that way; anyhow, he won't catch hold unless I tell him to; but you see, ever since that night he wants to go for every strange man or woman that comes near the place. Liz says "he's got burglars on the brain."
"'I guess I'll begin at the beginning and tell you how I came by him. One night after school I'd been down to the steamboat landing on an errand for father, and along on River Street there was a crowd of loafers round two dogs in a fight. This dog was one of 'em, and the other was a bulldog twice his size. The bulldog's master was looking on, without so much as trying to part 'em; but nobody was looking after the yellow dog: he didn't seem to have any master. Well, I want to see fair play in every thing. It makes me mad to see a fellow thrash a boy half his size, or a big dog chew up a little one. So I steps up and says to the bulldog's master, "Why don't you call off your dog?" but he only swore at me and told me to mind my own business.
"'Well, I know a trick or two about dogs, and I ran into a grocer's shop close by and got two cents' worth of snuff, and I let that bulldog have it all right in his face and eyes. Of course he had to let go to sneeze; and I grabbed the yellow dog and ran. It was great fun. I could hear that dog sneezing and coughing, and his master yelling to me, but I never once held up or looked behind me till I was half-way up Brooks Street.
"'Then I set the yellow dog down on the sidewalk and looked him over. My! he's a beauty now to what he was then, for he's clean and well-fed and respectable looking; but then he was nothing but skin and bone, and covered all over with mud and dirt, and one ear was torn and one eye swelled shut, and he limped when he walked, and—well, never mind, old Grip! you was all right inside, wasn't you?
"'Well, I never dreaded any thing more in all my life than taking that dog home. Mother hates dogs. She never would have one in the house, though I've always wanted a dog of my own. I knew Liz would call him a horrid little monster, and Fred would poke fun at me—and, oh, dear! I'd rather have gone to the dentist's or taken a Saturday-night scrub than go into that dining-room with Grip at my heels.