STORIES FROM CLOUD-LAND.
CHARLOTTE M. HIGGINS.
BOSTON: LEE AND SHEPARD.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854, by PHILLIPS, SAMPSON & CO.,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
Stereotyped by HOBART & ROBBINS, New England Type and Stereotype Foundery BOSTON.
PAGE HEPSA AND GENEVIEVE, 5 THE GARDEN OF GOD; OR, THE BABY'S FIRST SMILE, 26 CYBELE, THE TAMBOURINE GIRL, 44 THE STORY OF MAGGIE'S JOURNEY, 63 THE OLD WOMAN AND THE ENCHANTED SONG, 84 THE OLD MAN'S STORY, 102 A STORY OF THE CHRIST-CHILD, 118
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HEPSA AND GENEVIEVE.
Genevieve lived in a large, handsome house, which had beautiful gardens all about it. She had no brother or sister, but she had a large play-room, filled with the nicest toys, so that a good many children who came to play in it thought she must be perfectly happy; but Genevieve had often thought how willingly she would give the room and all its playthings for a little brother of her own, whom she might take out in the garden for a walk, and watch carefully, just as her mother watched her.
One day, while she was walking in the garden, thinking of the little brother she so much wanted, who she was sure would look like her dear mother, with her blue eyes, and golden curls, what should she hear but the noise of some one crying outside the garden fence. Now, as she could not look through the fence,—for it was quite high and made of thick boards,—she ran quickly to the gate, and then round to the place where she had heard the crying. There she saw a little girl sitting upon the side-walk, with bare feet and legs, which were none of the whitest, wearing a dress of brown cloth with many tatters in it, and short black hair hanging over her face and head. Genevieve looked at her in amazement.
"Dear me!" she at last exclaimed, "where do you live?"
At this question the child stopped her crying, and pulling away her hair with both of her hands from her face, disclosed a pair of large black eyes, which, swollen with tears, regarded little Genevieve with sly, sleepy wonder.
It was not wonderful she should be astonished to behold so neat and pretty a child close by her side. Genevieve wore a blue frock and white apron, neat stockings and slippers, and pantalettes with broad ruffles. So she only gazed at Genevieve, without dreaming of answering her question.
"What is your name?" asked Genevieve.
"What is yours?" demanded the child.
"Mine is Genevieve. Tell me what yours is?"
"Hepsa. Do you live in there?" and Hepsa nodded her head towards the fence. Genevieve replied that she did.
"But tell me why you were crying?" she asked.
"Because Tom beat my black cat this morning and threw her into the pond, and she was everything I had." Hepsa burst into tears again, and little Genevieve's heart was so filled with compassion, that she sat down upon the dirty ground, at the side of the afflicted child, without ever thinking of the blue frock and clean pantalettes she was soiling.
"O, dear, dear!" she cried, shocked at Tom's cruelty. "How wicked he was! What made him do so,—your brother, too?" Genevieve thought in her heart that little brother, of whom she so often thought, never would have done such a thing.
Hepsa looked up half angrily, as she replied:
"You needn't keep telling me he is my brother! I'm sure I don't want him to be, and wish he wasn't. I don't love him a bit, he always plagues me so much."
"O, Hepsa, don't say so; pray don't!" cried Genevieve, shocked at Hepsa's passion. "If he is your brother, you ought to love him, you know."
"I don't know any such thing, I tell you! You may love him yourself if you want to; but I guess, when he kicks you, and beats you, and steals your things, and knocks your mud-houses down, you won't love him. I'd like to know why I've got to love him?" Hepsa demanded this of Genevieve in a very fierce manner.
"Because he is your brother I suppose, and because he ought to be good; and perhaps he plagues you because you don't love him," answered Genevieve, somewhat perplexed how she should answer the question, thinking in her own heart Hepsa had a very wicked brother. "At any rate," she continued, "God gave him to you; and I have read how he tells us all to love each other."
"I never did," replied Hepsa; "and if God gave Tom to me, I wish he'd take him back, for I don't want him."
"Why, Hepsa; how wicked you are! You shall not talk so!" almost shrieked Genevieve. The tears came fast into her eyes, she was so grieved to hear Hepsa talk in that way.
"But I'm not wicked!" retorted Hepsa indignantly. "I don't know who God is. Why should I? He never comes to see me. I suppose he comes to see you, and is some great person; while I am poor and live in a mean house, and nobody comes to see me, of course." Hepsa looked away from Genevieve's blue frock, and seemed to be searching for something away down the street.
Genevieve could not sit still any longer, but, rising, she remonstrated with Hepsa in this manner:
"God is not a man, Hepsa; and he goes into poor houses as often as into rich ones."
Hepsa looked very sharply upon little Genevieve as she replied,
"Ha! Don't you be telling me stories; why don't I see him ever, I'd like to know? Haven't I got eyes?"
"I don't know," said Genevieve, doubtfully. "Father was reading this morning about people who had eyes, but could not see."
Hepsa looked at her a moment, and then nodded her head towards her, and said, speaking low as to a third person, "She's cracked a little, I think;" then, as she looked towards the fence, she remembered the garden which was behind it, and asked Genevieve for some flowers. But Genevieve only said "O, yes," and went on to say, "Of course you can't see God, Hepsa! He lives in the skies."
"I shouldn't think he would come down here, then. I wouldn't!"
"But, Hepsa, God loves us; then, too, he is everywhere at once."
"Mercy!" said Hepsa to herself, in a low tone. "Worse and worse!"
"And he made everything you see, Hepsa, and a great deal more beside," continued Genevieve.
"There, there!" said Hepsa, impatiently; "don't talk any more; it sounds odd." Genevieve looked at Hepsa, and the wild, petulant look of her face grieved and shocked her so much, that she burst into tears.
"What is the matter?" said Hepsa. "I thought you were going to get me the flowers."
"And so I will," said Genevieve, wiping up her tears as well as she could; and she ran into the garden, and picked a large bunch of flowers. There were the sweet mignonette and heliotrope, the pink verbena, and the beautiful white scented verbena, the gay phlox, the pure candytuft, bits of lemon blossoms, and the faithful pansies. It was such a beautiful bunch as to melt poor Hepsa's heart to gratitude.
"I do think I should love to kiss you," she said to Genevieve, "if my face were not so dirty, and you look so clean."
"I don't care!" said Genevieve, and so she kissed Hepsa and said, "Hepsa, I wish you would never again talk so about God, for I love him very dearly, and so do my father and mother."
Hepsa began to think Genevieve was not crazy, and so she became more serious.
"But did you never read about Him, Hepsa?" asked Genevieve.
"No, indeed; I can't read at all!" exclaimed Hepsa, astonished at Genevieve's questions.
"Not read! Why, Hepsa, why don't you go to school?"
"I can't; mother keeps me at home to tend the baby while she goes to washing."
A bright thought came into Genevieve's little head.
"Where do you live?" she asked.
"O, away down that lane, the other side of the village! I work nearly all the time, some way or other."
"Have you any father?"
"Yes;" and Hepsa looked as though she did not love him better than she loved Tom.
"May I teach you to read?" asked Genevieve, looking into Hepsa's eyes entreatingly. The child turned away her head as she answered,
"I haven't any time. I have to stay at home."
"But," pursued Genevieve, "I'll come down to your house, and bring some books, and help you tend the baby. O! don't you love the baby?"
"No! he is too cross," was the crusty reply.
"But, he is a baby; he don't know any better."
"That don't make any difference."
"Yes it does, too; your big brother knew better than to kill your pretty pussy, and that is why it was so naughty in him to do it." This was a new kind of argument for Hepsa; but she thought over it a moment, and then told her little teacher she thought she might be right. "I almost wish you would come to teach me to read. I don't know but I might like it; and then it would be rather good to see you. Now, are you sure there is such a person as God?" said Hepsa, glancing at Genevieve from the corners of her eyes.
"Of course I am, Hepsa; who do you think made the sky and the ground, the trees and grass?"
"I don't know," replied Hepsa.
"And the sun and the moon, and the stars," continued Genevieve, with a mysterious tone. Hepsa shook her head by way of saying no.
"And all the fathers and mothers and children?" at which question Hepsa looked so perplexed.
"I asked mother once," she said, musingly, "who made all these things; but she told me I'd better be minding the cradle. I guess she didn't know; but I've always had spells of wondering about it."
Genevieve looked very gravely at Hepsa as she said,
"It was God who made all these things."
"Well, I don't know but it was," replied Hepsa.
"But I know it was; the Bible says so, and father and mother say so, too; beside, I feel it in my heart, when I see the sun and the flowers, and everything looks so pretty."
"Do you?" cried Hepsa, seeming to feel a new interest in her companion. "I wonder if you ever hear pretty voices in the trees when the wind blows, and in the night when it is warm, and you are looking up to the moon, and see the light that comes down through the holes in the sky, does something great seem to come close to you?"
"Why, yes, Hepsa, ever so many times, and I think it is God. And when Katie leaves me to go to sleep, and it is all dark, I know God comes then, for I feel him all around, and the room seems so big—bigger than it ever did before, bigger than the garden, bigger than the fields, bigger than the sky. I can't tell you how big."
"O, well—and—what did you say your name was?" asked Hepsa.
"Genevieve;" and she pronounced it very slowly.
"It is rather odd," said Hepsa, trying to repeat the name; "but I want to know if you ever laid down on the ground when it rained, and listened."
"Well, it is real beautiful; in the grass, it sounds like bells—it sounds better where the grass is tall."
"I wish I could hear it," said Genevieve, sadly; "but my mother wouldn't like to have me lie on the ground when it rained."
"How would she know it," asked Hepsa, "if you didn't tell her?"
"Why, Hepsa, I shouldn't want to if she wouldn't like it—I shouldn't want to at all."
"I suppose, then, she won't let you come to hear me read?"
"O, yes she will, I know! I'll ask her, and she will kiss me, and say yes."
So Hepsa told her where she lived, and Genevieve went into the house, and Hepsa went home, feeling very happy about the flowers, and thinking of the things her new friend had told her.
"She says I must love Tom, and that is so queer; but if the God who gave me Tom, is the One who comes so near to me sometimes, I'll try; and, perhaps, if I hadn't called Tom such names this morning, he wouldn't have killed my poor cat." So Genevieve's words had sunk into Hepsa's heart already.
Genevieve went to her mother, and told her what a strange little girl she had found that morning, and that she had promised to go and teach her to read, that she might know about God.
On the next day she took some of her books, and, with some of her prettiest playthings for a present to Hepsa, she went in search of the house down the lane, on the other side of the village.
She found a gentler pupil than on the day before; and Hepsa's hair was laid smoothly upon her forehead, her face clean, and though there were some tatters in her dress, Genevieve did not much mind them.
The baby was in his cradle, fast asleep, and Genevieve went and knelt down by the side of it, and looked at it carefully, as though she was afraid of awaking it, and then whispered to Hepsa her admiration of the little hands, which lay cunningly upon the quilt, and said how much she wanted to kiss him; would he wake, she wondered, if she just kissed his cheek, and didn't make any noise? Hepsa told her no; so she kissed him; and then, after looking at him to see how sweetly he slept,—now frowning, and now smiling in his dreams,—she went away with Hepsa, and they talked a great while together, telling each other what the other didn't know. Genevieve was often shocked and grieved at Hepsa's undutiful remarks about her father, mother and brother; and when she felt they didn't love Hepsa, as her own dear father and mother loved her, still she could not understand why Hepsa did not love them better. She was often a good deal perplexed to know what she should say to the strange child; but of one thing she felt always certain, that her new companion needed to have her heart cleansed and purified before she could be loved well. She felt a strong love for Hepsa, and longed to teach her more of God, and show her how to read, that she might teach herself.
Hepsa was amazed when her friend took out the playthings from the bag and gave them to her; no one had before shown her such kindness; and Genevieve thought in her heart she was just as happy giving those things to Hepsa, as when they were given to her.
Poor Hepsa had never been to school, and so she didn't even know the alphabet; but Genevieve sat down patiently to teach her, and found truly that much patience was necessary to accomplish the work she had undertaken. Hepsa would soon grow discouraged when she found so much to learn, and saw her little teacher reading so readily; and her mother would often scold when she saw Hepsa with a book in her hand, declaring it was foolish nonsense; but, as time went on, and the first difficulties were overcome, and her mother began to find Hepsa growing very gentle, and Tom had less occasion to plague his sister, they all felt that the books Hepsa had studied, and the little girl who came so often to see her, were kind friends, and love began to bind them all together. Hepsa no longer wore torn clothes; Genevieve's mother had given her some neat dresses, and Genevieve had given her needles and thread, and taught her to sew, and now many a rent was carefully mended, and even Tom began to look neater than formerly. She was careful too to keep the room nicely, and one day was amply rewarded for this, when Tom came in before she had had time to do it, and complained of its being dirty. "Tom begins to like a clean room," she said to herself with joy, and received his few harsh words as though they had been those of love. The baby too was always clean, for she knew Genevieve always depended upon kissing him.
Hepsa's father was not a good man; he was unkind to his poor wife and children; so it was no wonder Tom had gone on, following the example constantly placed before him; but he was a child yet, and when he saw how Hepsa began to love him, that she grieved without being angry when he was unkind to her, it could not but touch his heart. He was half ashamed, too, when she saved for him some of the good things Genevieve had brought her. At first, 't is true, he thought little about it, but when often, after he had been so ugly to her, she came just the same, and offered him half of her orange, or a part of her nuts, he began to feel that he was a naughty boy, and that Hepsa was better than she used to be.
It was very natural he should ask her the reason of this, and very natural, too, that she should answer in this way:
"Why, Tom, I have learned a great deal about God from Genevieve, and then she has taught me to read, and I have learned a great deal that way. Tom, where do you think Susan went when she died?"
Tom couldn't tell. Susan was an elder sister of theirs, whom they had loved very dearly, and who had died some two years before.
"Well, Tom; there are angels who take all the children, as soon as they die, and show them wonderful things, and teach them, so they can go into a beautiful place called heaven, and live with God. Well, if you begin to be good here, and love people, you will go into that heaven sooner, when you die, than if you are naughty, and don't think about these things while you are here. I want to go there very much, and so I try to be good, though I don't always make out well." Tom looked thoughtful at his sister's words, and then said:
"I think that little Genevieve will go very fast, when she dies. But I don't think father will get there very soon, now I tell you!"
"O, but Tom," said Hepsa sadly, "we must not think who will not go, but how we may go."
"I wish I knew how to read," said Tom; "but I never can go to school, father makes me saw so much wood."
Then Hepsa asked him to let her teach him; and, after a good deal of hesitation, he told her he didn't care if she did.
Some time after this, Genevieve's father and mother went away from that place, and she parted from Hepsa with many tears in her eyes, and much grief in her heart. "If I never see you again," she said, "don't forget we are both going into the gardens up there," and Hepsa always remembered.
Genevieve was a very quiet girl, but she was always ready to do something to please her dear mother, and at night brought her father's slippers from the closet, and placed them ready by his chair. She did, too, many little things for the servants, who all loved her very dearly; so when, a few years afterwards, she fell sick, and nothing they could do for her was able to make her any better, but the doctor said she must die, they all wept very much, and no comfort or joy could come into their hearts. But Genevieve gently kissed them, and told them a beautiful peace had come into her heart, for that, in the night, Christ often came to her, and told her how the angel was all ready to take her into his beautiful garden, and teach her out of his great golden books.
At last, one morning she died, and they laid her away in the garden near by the fountain; and they planted the mignonette and myrtle, that, mingling with the moss, it might grow over her grave.
And her mother said in her heart, "Let her lie here, that, as often as I come hither, I may be reminded of the more beautiful gardens of God, to which she has flown. And when, in the cool night, the stars look down, the soft fragrance of the mignonette shall tell them of her loveliness, and the myrtle and the moss of the constant love twining together the souls of the mother and the daughter."
It was as Christ had said; the angel stood ready, and when Genevieve closed her eyes in death, he caught her in his arms, and placed her before the Great Gate, which led into the gardens around the kingdom of heaven. A great many men, women and children stood about it, waiting for it to be opened, when suddenly a very bright angel, brighter than any she had ever seen in her dreams, came among them, seated on glorious clouds.
Then one by one did the crowd go before him, telling him what things they had done on earth, in order to be admitted into the gardens, to be prepared still more for the heavens. One said he had built a large college, given it a large sum of money, and called it by his name, that the world might see his works, and praise the Lord. Another told him how he had toiled in heathen lands, and dwelt among savages, that they might know and love God; another that he had prophesied; another that he had built a hospital for the poor, and had sheltered them from the cold winds; another still that he had delivered slaves from cruel masters, and brought them to the light of freedom. O, there cannot be counted all the men and women who came before the angel, and told of the things they had accomplished! And, as the words came upon Genevieve, her heart trembled for fear, and had it not been for the remembrance of those kind tones of Christ, poor Genevieve would have shrieked aloud.
What should she do? Rapidly she recalled every act of her life; but nowhere in it could she find one act worthy to be brought before the great bright angel. Alas! she had neither founded colleges nor hospitals; she had never toiled in heathen lands, nor prophesied, nor delivered slaves from bondage. Alas! must she lose those gardens when still so near?
The angel's glance fell upon Genevieve, and she drooped down in fear; but what was her surprise when the angel came down from the cloud, and raising her up, said, in tones of loving cadence,
"Look, little one, thy work was accepted long ago!" and, looking as he bade her, she saw Hepsa at her side, to whom, so long ago, she had spoken of heaven, when she had found her a dirty, ignorant girl.
"You have worked well," said the angel tenderly. "Go now into the garden, and ere long I will come to put you into the Christ's arms."
So Hepsa and Genevieve together walked through the gates, and the angels who would be their teachers went with them; but I cannot tell you of the beauty and glory of those scenes. I only beg you too to work well, that the angel may speak as lovingly to you.
THE GARDEN OF GOD;
THE BABY'S FIRST SMILE.
In a very lovely little cottage, around which grew sweet-briers and rose-trees, and up whose windows climbed honeysuckles and jessamines, lived a mother with her baby.
The mother was a young woman, with golden hair, kind blue eyes, and fair white skin. There was always a look of love in her eye, and in the gentle tones of her voice the most soothing tenderness. People said the baby looked like her; but he cried so much that his face was continually distorted, and so the resemblance was not of any use to him.
Now there was a great deal of discussion about the baby's looks, as to which he most resembled, his father or mother; some decided in favor of his father, who was a tall man, with black hair, and black eyes, and large, sharp features. It was a difficult question to answer, inasmuch as the baby had yet but a very few hairs on his head, and his features were not easily distinguishable; and as each person's decision affected only his own opinion, there was a great deal of discussion and comparing of the poor baby's little face with those of his parents, and, through dint of being often shown them, the father and mother began to find the most remarkable resemblance to each other in their little child.
Well, one day he had been crying very hard, and his poor mother was nearly worn sick with trying to quiet him. She had walked all over the house, shown him everything on the tables, taken up books and shaken them before his eyes, carried him to the windows and cried "See there! see there!" with fresh tones of love and pity, without his seeming to be in the least edified by it all. She tossed him before the looking-glass; but he did not seem to be comforted by the glimpse of himself, done up in a blanket, which he caught; until, at last, after putting everything into every place in which it didn't belong, and trying to make him look at things he didn't care to see, she resolutely put him in the cradle, rocked him with his head moving now on this and now on that side of the pillow, until he fell fast asleep.
He had no sooner closed his eyes to sleep than he left his baby's body in the cradle, and ran straight off to the gardens of God in heaven, towards that place where dwell the angel-children who are yet to go down and live upon the earth. As he came near the tall flowers, whose golden petals were spread, and in whose cups lay sweet dew, he clapped his hands with joy, and a bright smile lay on his lips, which before had been distorted with grief.
Not far from him there rose a bright fountain, which, falling, dashed its water gently down into a broad, silvery basin beneath. In the midst of the falling spray a large bird, with long, blue plumage, played, now diving beneath the water, and now catching the drops as they fell from the fountain. Then came other birds, some in gay scarlet plumage, with white feathers about their necks and at the tips of their wings and tails; they, too, played in the fountain, and chased each other over the sparkling waters.
Then there were tall trees, of such a bright green as is seldom seen on the earth, and on them were fruits which looked a little like those we see here, but a thousand times more beautiful, for they shone like precious stones. About everything was a glory which it is impossible to describe.
At a little distance was a troop of fair children at play, and when they had seen the little child from the earth they ran towards him, and would have kissed him joyously, but that they saw the tears he had so recently shed still standing upon his cheeks; at this, sorrow shone over their faces, and tears like pearls entered their own eyes, as, in the tenderest manner, they asked him the cause of his grief.
"Do not ask me, dear brothers and sisters," he entreated; "I wish only to think how I am with you now for a little while, and I long to forget the earth-scenes." Speaking thus he kissed them all, and led them away off among the bright fields.
Very gayly they played a long time; they plucked the golden apples from the trees, and threw them far up in the sky, and the apples bounded so lightly that they still went on, till at last they dropped down to the earth into some dark rooms where poor people lived, who, when they found them, rejoiced exceedingly.
Then they went riding on the clouds, and the light of their faces gave a brightness to the edge of the clouds, so that the people on the earth loved to stand watching them, never fancying what a troop of angel-children were frolicking on them.
At last they became weary of this sport, and bent their way quite towards the earth. At this our earth-child saddened, and did not wing his flight as quickly as the others did. Upon this they looked around upon him and said:
"Why tarry you? Do you not know we go to the earth, to do there what our dear Teacher bids us? You have played with us, and will you not now do the work which you have so often done with us before?" So he sped on with them, but his voice was silent and his heart wept.
They soon came to the earth, and then, unseen by any one, they made their way towards a little, dingy house, in one room of which sat a little boy upon a bench, driving pegs into the sole of a boot. On one side lay all the boots in which he had driven pegs, and on the other a great many more in which he must still drive them. He looked sad and pale, and the sweat lay in large drops upon his forehead. By his side sat a large, stout man, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up, displaying strong, brawny arms, while his face was red and stern. He was also at work, but watched the boy well, and if he saw his arm rested for a moment he would give him a little push, bidding him mind his work; and so the poor boy had to drive the pegs into the soles of the boots, even though he was weary and his face pale and sad.
Then the angel-children, seized with one feeling of love and pity (for they could remember how the poor boy used to be one of them and play in the garden of God), soared above him. One came down and wiped off the drops of sweat from his brow; another passed his soft hands over the boy's face, and rested him; and another put comforting thoughts into his soul.
Then the master looked up, and when he saw how the boy seemed suddenly refreshed, he told him it was good to work and silly to be tired; and when the boy heard these hard words, tears came into his eyes, and he thought of his mother who used so tenderly to care for him, but had now been gone long to the home of the angels.
Then some of the angel-children wiped away the tears which had come into the boy's eyes, and another shook his beautiful wings over his head, so that at once a cool breeze fell over him and hopeful words entered his soul. Some of the children moved his arm up and down as he drove the pegs into the boot, and he wondered how easily he was able to work.
All this time our earth-child stood apart, nodding his head sadly, and when the others asked him the cause, he answered, "O, you do not know how hard it is to live on the earth! See this poor boy; how far different was it with him when he played with us in the gardens up there!"
The children were silent; they knew not how to comfort him. They thought, too, of the time when they should live on the earth.
Then they flew along and came to a large city, in which lived many homeless children, who were led about by unkind and evil spirits; and passed constantly by men and women, who did not so much as give them one kind word.
As the angel-children wandered among them they shuddered: such strange words filled the air, and so dark and dingy looked the houses where they went in and out. Could it be that these children, who talked together in angry moods, who rather sought the opportunity to trouble each other, had ever played in that fountain, and laughed together in the heavenly fields? "O," they sighed, "could we but once drive the evil spirits from one of them, and whisper in his ear of the kind love of God!"
Then their wings fluttered and folded themselves over the head of a large boy, whose clothes were dirty and tattered, his hair matted and disordered, his body thin and wan, while the expression of his face was very old and vacant. A slight girl, holding a little pail in her hand, came along near him, and made as if she would go by him; but the boy would not suffer her to pass on, and, stopping her, said to her,
"Well, and what have you got?"
The child looked at him fearfully, and remained silent; but the boy did not heed her half-imploring look, but proceeded to lay hold of her pail, in which she had had hot corn to sell, and, opening it, discovered there six pennies instead.
"Ah," he cried exultingly, "that is what I wanted! You have done well with your corn; you may go on now;" and, despite the poor child's cries, he took away the pennies, and, in resisting the little struggle the child was able to make, he threw her down upon the pavement.
This was in a dark street, filled with people wicked like this boy, and where was no one who cared to take the child's part.
But those angel-children were silent witnesses of this scene, and they put out their hands, so the little girl was not much hurt in her fall. Then they looked at each other in dismay; the pearly tears again came into their bright eyes, and they asked each other what they might do for this wretched boy. They remembered when the boy and girl played together in the fair garden of God; and it was not possible for them to remember that, and look unmoved upon this fearful change which had come over him. "O, this is a sad earth-life!" murmured the baby's spirit; and he nodded his head again in sorrow. "Why may not I, too, become like this boy?"
"But must the earth-life bring this change?" asked another of the angel-children, who saw the anguish of his friend, but knew not how to comfort him. "Do we not remember the poor boy who worked so hard, and had no rest, yet he was patient and good, and kept bright, and hung the cord which tied his soul to heaven with the tear-drops which fell for his dear, dead mother? When tried, he gave back no hard words. He was better than we, who are happy always and have no trials."
Not long after, they found the wicked boy asleep; he had thrown himself down, in the corner of a dirty alley, on a little straw. The children hovered over him, trying how they might approach him. They drove hence the dark spirits, one by one, who hindered their approach, and then they carried him off by the sea-shore in a dream; they made him sit upon the sand and listen to the roaring of the waters; the large rocks stood scattered on the beach, and the sea-mosses and shells were thrown up by the waves. Afar off, upon the water, he saw a long line of bright clouds, which seemed to climb up to heaven to meet the bright, twinkling stars. The moonlight shone softly down upon him.
Then they laid him down upon the sand, and made him look up into the sky to feel the rest and peace of it; still more came the moonlight upon him, and the stars seemed to open and close their eyes for pity. The wind came towards him and passed along his brow and over his heart. Then came into his soul an indescribable longing, such as he had never felt before—a longing which the noise of the sea, the beauty of the clouds, the peace of the sky, and the tenderness of the wind, had aroused in him.
He felt that something inexpressibly dear had been lost to him, and he feared never again to regain it; the quiet moon and the pitying stars made him fear. A deep grief entered his heart, and he wept as from an everlasting sorrow. As he wept the angels rejoiced, and hovered over his head in a halo of light; for they knew that these tears would bring him into the path that led to heaven!
Not far off lived a man who cared for destitute and ignorant children; the angel-band flew to bring him, and when the boy opened his eyes, in which the tears of repentance still lay, the ocean and bright clouds had disappeared; but there was bent upon him a pitying, benignant look, which went to the boy's heart, and a kind voice lingered in his ear, subduing him by its very strangeness. So he at once received the proffered hand, and arose and went with him to his home.
After that, the angel-children went into a splendid mansion, where, in a large, handsome chamber, lay a little girl suffering under severe pain. Her little couch was hung in blue silk, and rich laces adorned her pillows. On a little table by the side of her bed stood golden goblets, to refresh her parched mouth with pleasant drinks. Yet, still the little girl moaned in pain. Her eyelids were closed, and her weary hand lay still upon the bed. At her side sat her nurse, watching her wants and longing to relieve them. Costly toys lay uncared for on the rich, heavy carpet. The flowers had lost their charm, the delicious fruit lay, full and ripe, neglected on their dish.
Sleep would not come to the child; weary and in pain, she had laid there a long, long time, her poor little body wasting slowly away towards the grave.
"Let us give her rest and comfort," said the angel-children; and, waving their wings over her, she fell to sleeping.
The nurse said, then, there might be hope. Listen and hear,—what bright hope there was, indeed!
They whispered to her, that soon her pain should cease, and that, for her trust and patience, she should go to God's beautiful garden. They showed her the fountains and the birds; they told her how she should again ride upon the clouds, and study from the great books of God. Then in her sleep she smiled, and the nurse, who was watching her face, wept for joy, and exclaimed,
"There is hope! there is hope!"
Yes, there was hope!
When the little girl awoke, there was a more heavenly patience still, in her soul, and a longing to meet the loving glances of the angel-children again.
As the children wended their flight back to the gardens, and sat down beneath the green trees, and ate of their delicious fruit, they strove in vain to bring back the brightness to the face of the earth-baby.
"Ah, it would be so beautiful to stay with you!" he said. "I would like always to comfort these afflicted ones; but, alas! I shall need comfort myself, and you will come to me, as we have been to others. When I am on the earth there seems something gone and lost, and what is before me is confused and dim. I find myself so weak and helpless, when here I am so sprightly and strong! I cannot move myself at all, and when I remember these gardens I have left, and you with whom I have played, I can but cry all the time! It looks cold and bleak there, as it never does here. Then, should I grow up to be wicked, like those children we have seen, and so go far away from heaven, how wretched should I become,—how much better that I never had left these gardens!"
Thus he complained, and the other children were silent, for they knew how they, too, at some time, must go down and try their fortunes upon the earth; and, too, they sorrowed to lose their companion, for they knew that soon he could not come to them any more;—and while they told him, very eagerly, how they would come to watch over him, a soft tread fell on their ears, and their dear teacher approached them.
Her hair floated in long curls upon the cool air, and her eyes were bent down in sorrow upon the earth-child.
"Have you so soon forgotten the lessons you have learned from the book of God?" she asked; and the tones of her voice were like the soft harmonies of heaven. She held in her hand a book, along whose pages the letters sparkled in the brightness of gold and silver. At the sight of her, the earth-child threw himself at her feet, and besought her thus:
"Keep me with you, dear teacher, and teach me from your book! Why should I go to the earth-home again?"
Tenderly did the angel-teacher embrace and uplift the imploring child. She pointed to a distant part of the garden, towards a grate of lattice-work, in gold, silver and pearls, whence issued a glorious light. Beyond this they saw angels walking, in their hands bearing still more glorious books than the one she held.
"When I taught you, long ago, how beautiful was the life there, how pure the love, did you not long to go thither? And when I told you that the way thither was only through the earth,—that it was long and difficult and narrow,—that many troubles must make you strong to walk in it,—did you not long to go, promising not to complain? Do you so soon falter? Have I not told you that the book you carry in your hands there must first be formed on the earth?—that there you shall pick up one by one the shining letters which compose it? Why do you complain?—have you forgotten that your home is better than those miserable ones which have been given to those who were your beloved playmates here? This is your last visit to the garden of God. The angel-children shall come and whisper to you in your dreams; and, when they in their turns go down to live upon the earth, hold your arms out to them, and, when their steps are weak, help them along. And when you see children with tattered clothes, in poor cottages, look not proudly on your own, but remember that here, in the garden of God, you played together in the same fountain, drank the same dew; and think no more of yourself or your beautiful earth-home, for God gave it to you for the same purpose he gave the wretched cottage to the other. Remember, too, the good mother, who has patiently hushed your cries, and will yet bear you through many dark places. She has never yet tired in caring for you, and you have given her little else but trouble. Go; be henceforth patient and loving."
Sorrow came into the heart of the child for his selfishness; and, as he thought of his beautiful mother, how she always smiled upon him, and would help him to heaven, his heart filled up with love to her.
At that moment he opened his eyes, and there by his side sat the mother, watching for his awaking; a heavenly smile stole over his features, and he held up his arms to her. The mother caught him from the cradle, and wept over him in the ecstasy of a new-found joy and love; for it was the First Smile her baby had given her.
CYBELE, THE TAMBOURINE GIRL.
Cybele was a little girl; she had large gray eyes, and brown hair smoothly parted over her forehead, while there was a pitiful expression round her mouth, that pleaded with you so earnestly, you could scarce help stopping, as you met her, to give her a few pennies.
Her real home was not in this country. Long ago she had come over from the bright land of Italy,—from its warm, sunny skies and beautiful gardens, where the birds sang so joyfully, and gay music sounded on the air,—all which she longed to see and hear again; and as all things there had been so beautiful, and here so dreary, all beauty grew to be the same thing as that dear Italy, so that when she even saw flowers in the window of some lordly house, she would stand, gazing tearfully through them at the far-off home!
Cybele's mother had died in that beautiful land, and it was in one of its lovely gardens her body rested while her spirit soared heavenward. The little girl knew this place so well;—the orange-trees grew about it, and the song of the waterfall, near by, played and sparkled in the tones of the birds. But Cybele's aunt had taken the little girl with her to this distant land, and the child could no longer go and weep over the grave where her mother's body had been laid; but her heart was there—it could not forget. She dreamed of it in the long nights; and, when she played upon her tambourine, the remembrance inspired her notes, making people love to listen to her.
Away down in an uncomfortable, out-of-the-way part of the city dwell a great many poor people, who have come from distant countries to find here some bread, which may keep them from starving. The streets where they dwell are dirty, and the houses look smoky and wretched. There are queer little shops, with oranges and cigars, bread and tobacco, in the windows, and if you go in you smell yeast, and see milk-cans standing about, while a man in a green jacket sells you what you ask for. To such shops do the people near by come for their bread and cent's worth of milk. To such a shop little Cybele came, early in the morning, and late at night; and so dingy looked the shops and people, that her aunt's room seemed bright and cheerful in comparison. This room, nevertheless, was small and quite dark, having but one window, which looked down into a brown back-yard; but her aunt kept the room neat and clean; the bed stood off by itself, in one corner, the two chairs on either side of the table, and in the cupboard were a few plates and cups, with which the scanty table was spread; yet was this room dear to the child, since the dreams she had dreamed there hung over her still with their light and love.
It chanced, one day, that her aunt fell sick—so sick as to be obliged to lie on the bed. For a long time she had not been able to do any hard work, but had sat at home and made little brooms for Cybele to take out with her when she went to play the tambourine about the streets. And Cybele had seen how her aunt grew pale, day by day, but she had not dreamed the time would come when her aunt must lay still on the bed for weariness.
With a heavy heart she took the brooms and the tambourine, and went out, hoping to get a few pennies, and bring home a doctor for her aunt.
But it was a sad day for Cybele. She was rudely sent away from the doors at which she stopped, and though she stood long before the windows of lordly houses, in which she felt were many persons, still the sashes were left down, and no kind group appeared to encourage her. So she passed on, through quiet squares and noisy streets, but everywhere met with a repulse.
What should she do? It was impossible to go home without money. She thought of the poor aunt who was sick, and of the mother who lay away in the gardens of Italy, and new courage came into her soul. A gentleman came toward her, with ruddy cheeks and smooth, rich clothes. Surely he will not turn away from the little child. So she stepped forward, and, when he came near, she looked up in his face, saying,
"Please, sir, will you not buy one of my brooms?"
But he brushed by her, unheeding her gentle tones, and leaving her eyes filled with tears.
Then came along a careless boy, whistling a merry tune, and with his hands thrust into his pockets. Confidence and hope made her ask him also.
"Please, will you buy a broom?"
The boy stopped, and, still whistling, looked into her face, glanced over her dress, tambourine and brooms; and, as his eyes rested upon these last, he replied:
"Buy a broom! Pray, what think you I want with one of those flimsy things?" And then he looked at her as though he thought her so absurd!
Cybele was abashed by his manner, and began to think she had asked him to do a very foolish thing, so she hurried to reply:
"I don't know, I'm sure; but they brush away flies with them."
"Flies!" he repeated, contemptuously, at the same time taking one of the brooms from her little bundle, and thrusting it about him in all conceivable ways; pulling open the brush, and altogether ruining it. "Flies! it is getting too cool for flies; and, besides, my mother never lets any get into the house; so it's no use any way. Why don't you go home? It's a shame to be walking round the streets so. You ought to be in school, or at work, or something else."
"I don't know how to do anything else," replied Cybele, the blood rushing to her cheeks; "my aunt is sick, and I want to get some money."
"Tush!—always sick!" replied the boy, contemptuously; "how silly! I wonder the beggars don't all die some day, they've been sick so long!"
"We are not beggars!" said Cybele, raising her head somewhat proudly, and preparing to move away. "If you don't want the broom, I'll take it, if you please."
The boy seemed half pleased, as he looked at her, and said:
"Proud, too—if it isn't funny! Here, don't go away—I want to hear your tambourine."
So she laid down her bundle of brooms, and, arranging her tambourine, played him some merry tunes.
"Can't you dance, too?" asked the boy, when she had finished. So she danced and played to him; and, when she stopped, he placed a penny in her hand, and coolly walked away.
She looked at the penny lying in her hand, and then after the boy, who was walking up the street, and she couldn't help thinking how very little it was, and how she hoped he would have given her more. She looked at the little broom he had ruined, and everything seemed sadder than before. Then, by some strange freak, her mind ran off to the gardens where her mother slept, as it always did when darkness gathered round her, and she longed, more than ever before, to throw herself on the ground there, and quietly sleep a long, long time. During the whole day she had received but a few pennies; so few, they would not induce a doctor to go down to her sick aunt. If she only could have met some kind heart, which would have gone home with her, and given kind words and soothing draughts to the sick one! But it was not brought into her path.
When she came home and saw how much worse her aunt was than when she had left her in the morning, her little heart grew sick; and Cybele, who had seen her mother grow thin and die, began to be terrified, lest the aunt too would be taken.
So, she went up to her gently, and kissed her brow, and the poor aunt opened her eyes and smiled mournfully; and when she heard how little money the tambourine had brought that day, she tried to conceal her sorrow lest the little child should be grieved.
Then Cybele lighted a small fire in their bit of a fireplace, and made a little tea for her aunt. It was the very last she had; but when she thought how much her aunt needed it, and how she would need still more on the morrow, hope whispered, quite cheerfully, that with the tambourine she would win from people's pockets many a bright cent. With these thoughts, she looked very lovingly towards the tambourine, which lay quietly upon the floor in the corner, its gay bells silent, as if it, too, felt sorrow for the aunt's sickness.
After Cybele had toasted a bit of bread, and given it, with the tea, to the aunt—had received the kind kiss, and saw her close her eyes—she thought she slept, and new courage filled her heart; she began to think of the pleasant people she should see to-morrow. What a kind crowd she drew about her! They looked on her with loving eyes, and the sweet smiles played about their lips. There were the groups of pretty children, in gay frocks and rosy cheeks, which should gather about the parlor-window, when she should stop before it and strike the tambourine with her hand; and they would smile upon her, and then the elder sister, who should be so mild and gentle, would come and throw up the sash, and speak with her; and, perhaps, even she would throw down to her a sprig of the geranium which stood near by on the flower-stand. Then she was lured further on, to think of a great fortune which was to be obtained, that she might go back to the laughing skies of Italy, and spend her days in the lovely garden where her mother slept.
But when Cybele arose in the morning, and told her aunt how she was going out to gather in the pennies, the poor aunt sighed, and bade her stay at home a while, for she could not bear to be alone.
So Cybele sat down upon the floor, and, taking the tambourine, sang and played the softest and sweetest airs she could remember; and, as she played, it seemed as though new tones, and words even, were given to speak out of it.
She astonished herself, and a kind of sorrowful ecstasy came into her soul. She played on, and on, and forgot that the day was passing off, in which she was to earn so many bright pennies, in order to bring home the kind physician who was to make the dear aunt well at once. She went to the far-off land, and sang of the vineyards and the soft, warm air; of the gently-moving waters, and the fragrant blossoms around the banks of the lakes. O, the moon rose up before her, and she drank from its loving beams; the stars sent down their misty light, as if shrouded because of their great beauty! Once in that land, how had she forgotten all things else! A holy inspiration had come down over her; an angel of light appeared to her enchanted eyes, beckoning her to rest her head upon his bosom.
"Fear not!" he said, "for I will yet take you to the lovely gardens where your mother dwells."
But, when she eagerly stretched out her arms and cried, "Take me now," he disappeared, and she found the song stayed upon her lips, the room hushed, and only the glory, which the angel's presence had shed about, still lingered there. The holy stillness came into her heart also, and she sat quietly upon the floor a long time; and when, at last, she rose and went up to her aunt's bedside, she found the brow she kissed was cold, the hand she clasped was chilly; and, in looking with fear upon the aunt's face, she found the dews of death resting there.
The aunt was dead! Those songs, which flowed so easily from Cybele's lips, had become the requiem of the dead, and those soft tones had been the last sigh of a passing soul.
Cybele knew that when the angel had over-shadowed her, as she sang, he had borne hence her aunt's spirit.
But, O, it was so hard to be left all alone! And when the people from the other room came in and prepared her aunt for the burial; when they took her from the bed and put her in the rude coffin, the child's heart felt like breaking, and, had it not been for the words the angel had spoken to her when he came to bear hence the dear aunt, she would have wept without ever smiling again.
Then they carried away the coffin into a dismal place, where was neither green grass nor pleasant brook, nor even a flower, might it be ever so little; and there was a row of square, black doors against the walls, one of which they opened, and shoved the coffin into a dark place.
O, it was so dreary a place, with the high fence all about it, and the cold, dismal, gray clouds above! It did not seem to Cybele that she could leave the aunt there. Could she only lie away in the beautiful land where the mother slept, where the birds rested their wings upon the lemon-trees, and the blue sky smiled in quiet peacefulness!
But the people who stood around could not understand her grief, and so they hurried her from the yard and locked up the gate.
That night Cybele lay alone upon the bed on which her aunt had died, and the lonely grief came so fast upon her that she could not sleep, and the morning found her weary and heart-broken.
Then there came into her room a coarse man, who told her she must go out, for she could no longer live there; that she might be allowed to take her tambourine with her, but all the rest,—and there was little enough, the two chairs, the bed, the kettle and the few things in the cupboard,—were his, to pay for the rent of the room and he told her, if she brought a few pennies to the people who lived in the next room, when night was come, they would take care of her.
Now the man had no sooner spoken these words, than Cybele decided to have nothing to do with the people in the next room, for she could not love them. The father and mother were so coarse and cross, and the boys were so rude and big;—they had often refused to help her aunt, and while she was sick they had never come with kind words to smooth her pillow. Even after she had died, they had but come to put her in a rude coffin, and carry her to a dismal place, from which they thrust out the only heart who yearned for her.
So Cybele did not think of going to them. She tied the large silk handkerchief over her head, which had served her for a bonnet since she had left Italy, and, taking her dear tambourine in her hand, and the poor, neglected brooms, she went away out of the rooms where she had lived so long, where she had seen the angel, and where her aunt had died. Then, after standing upon the sill of the door a few moments, looking down the long staircase, out into the world to which she was going, she raised her gray eyes, and sweetly said, as though replying to the angel's admonition, "I'm not afraid." Ah, dearest one, you need not fear when the heavenly Father is so near unto your heart!
Without more hesitation she said "Good-by" to the room, and quickly sped down the staircase out into the world, while thus she talked to her tambourine:
"Don't you be afraid either, dear little Tambourine!" and she held it tenderly in her arms; "nor you, dear Brooms! We shall have happy times together yet. Only think of the beautiful tunes I'll play on you, and how the children will clap their hands when they hear your bells! No, don't be in the least afraid; I'll play on you as I never have before since once,"—here the little lip quivered in spite of itself,—"only try and play real pretty—do, so I shan't ever be lonesome with thinking of the lovely gardens at home! Ah, Tambourine! Tambourine! you and I are all alone!" Just then, a sweet tone came from the bells of the tambourine, and comforted Cybele's heart.
She wandered up the streets, and stopped to look in upon the windows of the toy-shops; but the toy-carts, and those wonderful witches, who would always stand on their heads, had no charm for her longer. Her heart was saddened, and when she tried to strike out gay tunes, they would not come—only sad ones, and sad words from her lips. The children pitied her grave looks, and, when they could not persuade her to dance for them, they would leave her in silence.
When she looked about her and saw all the children, how they were never alone, that their eye's danced, and their voices were mirthful, she would ask herself why she, too, was not happy. Then courage would come to her, and she would strike a gay air, and call the children to her side; but, when she had finished, she was glad to creep away by herself, and lean her head upon her tambourine to weep. Then, when the voice of the angel sounded in her heart, she would raise her head to reply, meekly, "No, I'm not afraid."
It chanced, one day, that she wandered into the obscure corner of a church. It was evening service, and at first she was only glad to get away from the cold, biting air; but she had not been there long before a strange feeling of gladness rose up in her heart. The organ awoke from its stillness, and the tones gladdened her as the tambourine, dear as it was, had never done. The hazy light poured in through the windows, and lit up the faces of the scattered worshippers with seraphic beauty, and it gave golden edges to the spotless robe of the priest in the chancel, played upon his white, flowing hair, and shone upon his uplifted countenance. The priest spoke out blessed words of the Father in heaven, how he calls the tired and weary to come and be folded up in his arms; how he even says, "Suffer little children to come unto mo, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." These words fell into the parched heart of little Cybele, and ran all along there in low sobs, and, stretching up her tiny arms, she murmured:
"Take me, take me now,—I want to come!" And she began to think of the angel who had said to her:
"Fear not, for I will yet take you to the lovely gardens where your mother dwells."
The organ ceased, the priest went out from the chancel, one by one the people passed out from the church, the sexton closed up the doors and went away, and Cybele sat in her corner, longing to see again the angel who was so often in her thoughts, until the hazy light had faded away in the darkness.
Then the moon rose, and streamed into the church, down the long aisles, and up into the chancel; and from the window above the place where the priest had spoken those holy words there flooded a glory of light, while the columns and galleries stood still in their deepened shadows. It was so holy a calm as to fill Cybele with a joyful awe. The tambourine slid from her lap; she crossed her hands upon her breast, and bent forward her head with closed eyes. Low notes of the sweetest music swelled on the air; louder they grew; until they seemed like the voices of those rejoicing for deliverance from great sorrow. Louder, louder yet the voices of angels mingled with them. As Cybele looked up there she saw great bands of holy angels rejoicing over her; among them the very one whose words of consolation had been with her so many days. Quickly to him she stretched out her arms, and he reached low down and raised her up to him. And they soared up, up to the region of the sun and the moon, hearing about them the soft voices of loving angels; the air was loaded with the perfumes of celestial flowers, while every angel they met gave them a word of welcome.
The angel did as he had promised, and the heavenly Father, whom Cybele had prayed to take her, gave her into the loving arms of the mother, who dwelt in lovelier gardens than those of fair Italy, even the gardens of heaven.
* * * *
When the people next opened the church, they found a dead child in one of its corners. A little tambourine lay by its side, which, when they picked it up, gave out pleasant, cheering tones; but, when they laid the dead body of the child in a cold, damp grave, they little thought what happy songs the living spirit of it sang with its mother in the lovely gardens of God.
THE STORY OF MAGGIE'S JOURNEY.
Little Maggie lived all alone in a small house which contained but one room. She had lived alone ever since the time her mother had gone to the palace of the Great King. At first Maggie had cried very bitterly to think of living alone without her mother; so did her mother, too, as for that matter, for no mother ever loved her child more dearly than she did Maggie.
"Maggie," she had said to her, when she knew she must go, "I shall love you just as tenderly as ever, and always think of you, even while I am in the Great King's palace. It is a long journey thither, and I expect I shall be obliged to go through a great many dark and strange places before coming there; and I fear, the most of all, to leave you in this little old house all alone; but you know I cannot disobey the King, and so must follow this servant whom he has sent to bring me. But, O, Maggie, do follow me some time, for I shall be anxiously watching for you till you come! Be sure, now, and don't disappoint me; and when you come I think you had better start early in the morning, for the road is a long and dangerous one."
Perhaps this was a long speech to make; but when mothers go on such journeys as Maggie's mother was to go on, it is not an unusual custom for them to do so,—and especially when we remember how she would leave Maggie all alone; it was only to be wondered she said no more.
When her mother had really gone, the first thing Maggie did was to sit down upon the door-step and cry bitterly. She could not bear to think her mother had really gone, and that if ever she wanted to see her she must start upon that long, long journey. At first I don't think she loved to think about the Great King who had taken her mother away, and she was obliged to think over the beautiful things her mother had said of him many times, before she could be glad he had called her mother. But at last she rose from the door-step, and went into the house. She had not much in it, 'tis true; she hadn't much to put in it; and if she had had more, the house was so small there would have been no place for anything but what already was there. The principal thing in the room was the chimney-place. It was so large as to cover the whole of one side of the room. There was a broad stone hearth, on which sometimes Maggie would place a few sticks she had picked up in the streets, and light them; but the little fire they made looked just as if it were ashamed of itself for burning in such a great fireplace; and the winds, indignant at its presumption, would rush down the chimney at a more desperate rate than usual, blowing the ashes into Maggie's eyes, as she sat before the little fire, and sending the smoke curling in funny forms about the room. So Maggie would run and cover herself in her poor bed, and say to herself that it was a comfort to have ashes and smoke; for, though they did blow in her eyes, still they came from the fire. Sometimes she would gather up sawdust, and by this fire she was able to warm her feet a little, though not much; for, as fast as she warmed them, the winds blew down again, so they were as cold as before.
You see it was a cold kind of a place in which Maggie lived; so cold that, although it was summer, still a good many people's hearts were frozen quite stiff, so their friends despaired of their ever being thawed out; and their tongues too were affected, so they could not speak gentle, kind words. I don't mean to say the cold ever dealt quite so shabbily by Maggie or Maggie's mother, which was rather strange, perhaps, since they could have but little fire; and the frost could walk very boldly in through the cracks all about the house. Still it was almost as bad that such things should happen to their neighbors, as every one knows it is uncomfortable to behold such misery.
Beside the chimney-place and bed, Maggie had some cracked plates and saucers, which she arranged on the chimney-shelf, and some bits of china, which she had found in piles of rubbish, and which she thought very beautiful. Now the chimney-shelf was very high, and she managed to put these things up there by climbing up the bed-post, which was rather a dangerous thing for her to do, and as it was a very little difficult, too, she did not often take down those things.
Now those cracked plates and saucers, and bits of china, were all the ornaments Maggie had for her house; and they were very precious to her. She would sit and look at them, wondering what people did who hadn't got any, and thinking how strange it would seem there in her house if they were taken away. You see Maggie knew how to prize little things; and so some day great ones may fall to her.
I did wrong to say she lived all alone; for she had a beautiful white Dove. Wasn't it nice? It was very white, and nestled close in Maggie's bosom when she carried it out of the house, and in the night it lay close to her heart. O, there was nothing Maggie prized like the Dove; for it was given her by her mother just before she went away, and she told her it would guide her when she began her journey; so it was not strange Maggie should love it so well.
It was a lovely, sensitive thing. When Maggie had become thoroughly weary and tired of living all alone by herself, she told her grief to the Dove, and it would press nearer and nearer to her heart, and when its mistress' tears fell on its head, its moans were so sorrowful that Maggie quickly forgot her own grief, and strove to comfort it.
Now it was in the summer time, and Maggie got along pretty well, for all the cold winds which blew in that region; but winter was coming on, and she feared it might be more uncomfortable for her. It happened, one night, that she heard a great noise, and awoke in a great fright. The moon shone very brightly, and, by its light, she saw a tall, strong-looking man carrying away her door. At first she thought she must be mistaken, and that, if she waited a while, she would see that he was about to do something very different. But no; he took first the door well off the hinges, put the hinges in his pocket, the door on his back, and went off. Then Maggie jumped quickly from her bed, and, running to the open doorway, cried out,
"Don't take my door; I live here."
But the man certainly did not hear Maggie; at all events he did not once turn back, but went away quite out of sight.
"But what could he want with my door?" said Maggie, in a high state of amazement. "Houses all have doors; so he can't want it for his house." She stood a long time, wondering and perplexed; and I must acknowledge, if I had been there, I should have wondered too. It was quite a long time before Maggie could persuade herself to go to bed again, and sleep till morning, which she finally did, feeling very thankful the man didn't take the bed.
In the morning a new joy was in store for her; she found that the sun now, when it rose, could look directly in upon her, and his warm rays would give warmth to her little room. As she looked up to the mantel-shelf, on which her bits of broken china were glowing from the sunshine, she jumped out of bed in an ecstasy of delight.
"O, dear, dear!" she cried, "what if that man had taken away those?—how I should have cried! But now he has, by taking the door, given the sun a chance to make them look more beautiful!"
Now she began to love the sun better than ever, for he had become one of the things which beautified her little home; and she always woke early, so as to meet his first look, when he came into the room.
Still it must be confessed that the absence of her door did at times make her poor home more desolate; when, for instance, the winds went mad, and the rain came down in torrents from the clouds, O, such a frolicking as there was down her large chimney, and out through the doorway! Then round and round the house they would run, chasing each other,—now bursting into a boisterous mirth, now howling in low, dull tones, until in again at the door they swept, and up through the chimney.
In Maggie's mind, the chimney and open doorway belonged especially to the winds. She always thought of them in connection, and, when they began their frolicking, she would seat herself in one corner, and listen. Sometimes it seemed as though the winds rushed at one another,—one coming down the chimney, and the other in at the door; then, when they met, there was a kind of explosion, a thick, quick quarrel, and then they would draw off in merry laughter; then would Maggie clap her hands with glee, thinking it fine sport; but when a whole blast burst at once upon the house, and seemed desperately to struggle through every crevice, she would crouch with fear, and upbraid the winds with their sudden freaks.
There was one mystery which Maggie found herself unable to unravel; it was this: She felt perfectly certain the chimney was made for the winds to come down through, and still she knew it was intended for her to make a smoky kind of fire once in a while on its hearth, with which the winds quarrelled, and destroyed it. Here were two things irreconcilable. Often would she stand on the hearth, and look up the black throat of the chimney, wondering how this inconsistency happened, wishing again and again that the winds would like the fire, and let it burn well; but she never thought of asking them to desist. She looked upon their freaks as privileged.
To the dear Dove did Maggie always turn for comfort and relief. Its love was a guarantee of her mother's, and, as often as she looked upon and held it to her heart, so often did she feel sure that one day she would feel the pressure of her mother's hand upon her head.
Once, when Maggie was talking to the Dove, and thinking of her mother, it came into her head to begin that journey to the Great King's palace. "Why not?" said she; "why do I live here? The cold winter is coming, and my door is gone, and the sun already gives me warning that he shall not look in at the door as usual; the neighbors will be colder than ever, and some of them will quite freeze. I've a mind to go away. What do you think, Dovey?"
The Dove nestled close to her heart, and cooed joyfully.
"Would you like it? Well, I don't know but I had better start. But I should have to leave the house,—and that would be rather bad,—and the chimney where the winds play. I think it would seem lonesome for them, and I don't know as they would like it, for there would be no one to listen to them; still I do want to go, and I think I'd better."
"I'm sure," said Maggie, after some pause, during which she lovingly caressed the Dove's head, "I'm sure I don't see why I didn't go before. I don't know why I should have lived here so long alone. I can take some of the best china, and leave all the rest. Perhaps some little child may like to live here after I am gone, and watch the winds as I have done; but I do hope they won't frighten her at first, or she will want to go away."
Maggie was an expeditious child, and when she had decided to do something, she went at once about accomplishing it. So she left the door-step on which she had been sitting, and went in the house, to see what she wanted to take; and, as she had so few things, the preparations were not long, but she soon found herself with her blanket pinned over her head, ready to start.
'Tis true a few tears came into her eyes as she bid farewell to the bed which had been her shelter against every unpleasant sight and sound; but when she turned to the chimney, and some perplexing thought of the quarrels of the wind and the fire came over her, she rather rejoiced she would soon be away from it, where this one mystery of their disagreement should never again trouble her.
Laying the white Dove in her bosom, she turned from the house, and so beheld herself fairly launched on her journey.
A little while she found it pleasant; the road was straight, and lined with flowers; the Dove raised his head, and looked in Maggie's eyes with delight.
But soon she came to a place where two roads met, forming the one she had been travelling. Here was a perplexity: which should she take—which would lead her where she wanted to go?
There was a house close by; so she stepped up to the door of it, and knocked. A lady, who was very pretty to look at, and who wore a very rich dress, opened the door; but just at the moment when Maggie asked, "Will you tell me which road leads to the palace of the Great King?" that same terrible cold wind came round and blew directly into the lady's mouth, so that she replied, "I know nothing about it, and very much doubt if there be any Great King at all;" and then she shut the door in great haste, leaving poor Maggie in much distress and doubt.
She was astonished at the woman's words, and wondered why she shut the door so soon; for, if she had not, she would have told her about the King; how she was sure he was alive, and had a great palace. And, too, she could have told her, his servant had come once and taken her mother with him, and she could never forget him; he had been dressed in black, but on his head he wore a crown of the most glorious stars, and their brightness had filled the little house with holy light, so that, even after he had departed, it still lingered around.
She thought some of knocking again and telling the poor lady, for she thought it was sad enough not to know about the Great King; but, though she knocked a long time, no one came to the door, and, finally, she was obliged to leave the steps of the house and gather some directions else-where.
One of the roads seemed cold, and looked narrow, and Maggie, who had suffered so much from the cold, turned from it with a shudder towards the other, which looked much gayer, and many more people walked in it; but the Dove looked anxiously towards the narrow one, which grieved Maggie, and made her cry out, "O, Dovey, Dovey! how can you love the cold so well, or ask me to go where it is? Let us rather walk this way a little, and do you not see there are plenty of cross-roads?—so, if we wish, we can go on to that narrow road at any time."
So, notwithstanding the Dove's remonstrances, Maggie entered this road, and found the air so pleasant and warm, that she liked nothing better than to walk in it.
She saw a great many people here; but they took no notice of the little girl, who walked along so quietly, with her Dove in her bosom, and the bits of china in her pocket. But, if they did not notice her, she noticed them well, and thought them strange enough.
To her surprise she found the air, which had at first seemed so warm, began to grow cold, and more like the air about the old house; and, shivering with cold, and seeing the people about her wearing large cloaks, it was quite natural she should ask them to let her in beneath the warm folds of them. To her civil request some of them paid no attention; others looked at her in wonder, and some were so rude as to speak cruel words to her, and bid her not dare speak to them again.
So Maggie saw them walk on, wrapped in their warm cloaks, and complained not. Indeed, she had lived too long in the little house without a door, not to be able to bear the cold bravely—only she could not help wishing sometimes that she had the bed with her, that she might jump in between its clothes and warm herself a while; but she was patient, remembering that she was journeying towards the Great King's palace, where her mother lived. Suddenly it occurred to her that the road to the Great King's palace lay through a remarkably cold country, and that the people who were travelling thither seemed in no haste, for they often sat down by the road-side and played; and some even went back, instead of forward, while all those little side-roads, which she thought she had seen before, had vanished. So, one day, she said to one of the people who sat down:
"Why do you not hasten that you may see the Great King?"
"The Great King, indeed!" he said whom she had addressed. "I am in no hurry to see him."
And others intimated as much as the lady long ago had said, that they themselves doubted very much if there were any Great King at all.
"What shall I do?" cried Maggie. "I cannot be in the right way. O, how shall I get to the Great King's palace!" And, upon this, the Dove rose up from Maggie's bosom, and turned backwards whither they had come. Though long and dreary seemed the cold road she must retrace, yet, such was her confidence in the Dove, she turned very gladly; and though not one of those people had cared for Maggie before, now they clustered around her, begging her not to leave them, and seeking to draw her away from her purpose. And when she saw how they seemed to love her, and feel sorrow at her going, she said to them:
"I am grieved to leave you, since you have just begun to love me; but I promised my mother I would go to the Great King's palace, and I must go where Dovey leads me."
"How silly to mind a bird!" cried one; and, picking up a stone, he hurled it at the Dove, who was hovering in the air, and broke its wing, so it could not fly.
Then, indeed, it seemed as though her grief was very great, and she could not help wishing she were already in the Great King's palace, or that he would send his servant for her, who was dressed in the black robe, and wore the crown of stars. She often saw this servant now; he came to bear many away; but the crown of stars was not on his brow, and his face shed no light around, only gloom.
Well, Maggie was obliged to stop and bind up the Dove's wing, and tend it a little before she could proceed on her journey. All delay was unwelcome to her; for, as the journeying thus far had been in pain, the true journey was still to begin. She was so hungry and thirsty, too! So it seemed impossible she could proceed when once she had started forward. There was no one to give her a crust of bread, or offer her a cup of cold water; nevertheless, she wouldn't tell the poor Dove, who was moaning with pain, for she thought, and well enough, that he had as much of his own trouble as he could well endure.
She had another trouble, too; there were some people whom she could not think desired to go away from the King's palace, and so she would tell them how they were going altogether in the wrong path; but they would either laugh or stare at her in wonder. Then she would almost have stood weeping in the road at their strange conduct, but the Dove would incessantly warn her to go on. At last, between grief and hunger, she fell sick, and thought she should die there, without ever seeing her mother or the Great King. But, lo! a gentle being, clothed in a white, spotless garment, came and put to her lips a cup of medicine, which she told Maggie, if she would but drink, would make her quite well again, and protect her against hunger and thirst for the rest of the journey. Upon this, Maggie drank it all but the dregs, and she found it so bitter that she thought it far worse than any cold she had ever endured. But, when the bright being saw she left the dregs in her cup, she was not satisfied, and bade her drink those, even with tears in her eyes. Maggie drank them as she bade her, and then the bright one vanished, leaving the child quite well and vigorous. The weariness vanished from her frame, the parching thirst from her mouth, and, what was yet more amazing, she found the little Dove quite well, and she stood with it in her arms before the two roads again.
So she commenced her journey upon the road she had so long ago rejected, and soon found that the snow vanished from the ground and shook itself from the tree-tops; the grass sprang up, the flowers played beneath her footsteps, and gay birds hopped among the boughs of the trees, making the air melodious with their songs; the brooklets ran murmuring by the road-side, and Maggie's Dove cooed with joy.
O, Maggie knew this was the road leading to the palace of the Great King—the very one her mother had travelled—the road, too, which she had been told did not exist! She met many children here, who sought the same she did; and they talked with Maggie, and she loved them, and with them thanked the King who had made for them such a lovely road to his palace.
At last, one day, there came the same servant who had carried away her brother, and gently, softly, took her in his arms. So often had she thought of his coming that she felt no kind of fear. He told her that the Great King wanted her, and that her mother was all ready to receive her. O, how her heart leaped at this, to hear a real word from her mother, and to think the Great King wanted her! As she lay in his arms, the servant, who wore on his head his bright stars, kissed her eyes and her brow. He carried her a long distance, sped through many a long, dark valley, and then they came out upon a bright shore, where were many people dressed in shining clothes.
Maggie looked at herself, and saw, with amazement, that she too was dressed likewise, and that the servant who had brought her hither had no longer a black robe, but a silver one, which sparkled so, Maggie was scarce able to look upon it. She had soon crossed the sea, and then her mother caught her in her arms, and wept for joy.
"O, Maggie, Maggie!" she said; "I have watched your journey all along, and my sorrow was so deep when I saw you mistake the roads. It was I whom the Great King sent when you was sick, that I might bear his love to you, and make you well. Come, now, and go with me before his throne."
Upon this they joined the crowd who were entering the palace;—but we cannot enter it,—we must first finish our journey.
THE OLD WOMAN AND THE ENCHANTED SONG.
Ruth had two sisters,—Grace and Jessie. Now Grace and Jessie were twins, and everybody praised their blue eyes and rosy cheeks, and when they laughed, people said, "How sweetly they smile!"—and when they wept, people said, "Poor little ones!" and immediately took them in their arms, and strove to bring back the dimpling smile to their faces.
Grace and Jessie played together always, and little Ruth, who was younger than either of them, was left often alone. No one ever called her beautiful, nor stroked her hair, nor kissed her brow; and when she stood by the side of the twin sisters at the gate, and the people, in passing, praised the flaxen curls of Grace and Jessie, then they would turn towards her, and, their smiles vanishing, they would regard her with a pitiful air, turning silently away. Then she would creep off by herself into some favorite nook of the garden, thoroughly ashamed that she should so far have forgotten herself as to stand by the side of her beautiful sisters.
Her mother, too, often took her in her lap, and, kissing her brow sorrowfully, would exclaim, in sad tones:
"My poor, plain child,—my dear homely Ruth!"
Her father never caressed her. His love seemed to be kept for the twins, whose two bright faces peered over his chair, and whose glad voices were always ready to greet him on his return home.
And still Ruth loved her father so much, and, nestling close in the corner of the garden away off by herself, mourned that he never kissed her, nor called her his dear, pretty Ruth.
"O," thought the child, "how I do wish I could do something for my father, which might please him, so that only once he might call me his dear child! O, why was not I made a twin?" Thus the poor child mourned to herself.
She had a doll, which she made her constant companion, and she played it was very lovely like Grace and Jessie; she told it all her griefs, and really came to feel that the doll understood all she said to it.
She had also another pleasure; it was that of reading. Her mother had given her many books, and she loved to sit among the rose-bushes, and read their beautiful stories. She liked to read about a man who lived off alone upon an island, and had only some cats and monkeys for his companions; how the cave was his house, and the skins of beasts were his garments; how he looked off upon the ocean, and saw not one sail, and wandered about upon his island, without hearing one human sound.
This story had a wild fascination for our little Ruth, so that she read it again and again; yet still the book was as new to her in its interest as at first.
Then there were other stories she loved to read; some about lonely, patient, lovely young girls, who went out into the world alone to seek their fortunes, and returned home with wealth and honor. She often wished she might go forth in this way, so that when she came back no one should dare call her plain or unlovable. Then she longed to hold some secret charm, so that whoever she should desire to do so, should love and caress her. But still no bright fairy stooped down from the skies to change her black, stiff hair into shining ringlets, or her dark-brown skin into the fairness of that of her sisters; and so Ruth only read, and wondered, and wished.
One day when, as usual, Ruth had found herself quite alone,—Grace and Jessie had gone to take a walk, and her mother was reading by herself,—she had taken her book, and sat down beneath the shade of a broad tree in the garden. She was reading the story of a fair princess, who had many suitors and splendid gifts, and who was called the Queen of Beauty.
"Alas!" she cried, "why was not I beautiful, so I might be loved! Then I should not be the sober, odd thing I am now!"
"Would you, then, so much like to be beautiful, dear child?" said a voice close at her side, and, when Ruth looked up, she saw an old woman whom she never had seen before. She was clothed in a long blue dress, and her face was full of motherly love. Ruth's heart was filled with gladness, for seldom had so affectionate a glance been shed on her; and when the old woman bent down and kissed her, how all remembrance of the indifference of father, mother, friends, vanished from her mind, and it seemed that her whole life was given to her new friend, that she might do with her whatever she willed!
All strangeness at her sudden appearance vanished, too, as soon as she had kissed her. Ruth felt under the control of a great power, and watched her movements with as much love as confidence.
When the old woman had looked into Ruth's eyes, and had seen the thoughts which beamed there, she looked up into the sky, and beckoned to a very light, beautiful cloud, which was sailing carelessly along.
She had no sooner done this than the cloud began to descend slowly towards them, just as though it understood her summons, and, when it had reached the place where she stood, it remained motionless.
Then she took up little Ruth in her arms, and stepped on to the cloud and sat down; and, after arranging herself and Ruth quite comfortably, she said something, which Ruth could not understand, and then the cloud began to rise, moving as easily as it had done before it came down from the sky.
While they were going up, Ruth was amazed to see how the garden and the beloved tree below became continually smaller and smaller; how, by-and-by, she could only distinguish the house, and how that became dimmer and dimmer, until it entirely disappeared from her sight.
Then she turned towards the old woman, and saw that her kind blue eyes lovingly regarded her; and so she still more forgot the home below, where, without doubt, her departure would pass unnoticed.
New objects began to attract her attention. The cloud on which they sat did not, like the others, just float over the earth, but it went proudly on, and came among the stars, and constellations of stars, and she saw how many were clustered together, and no tongue could describe their beauty; and then the deep blue was ever about her, and she saw it away off in the distance, growing to a darker and darker shade, until it became like the air of midnight; while ever from its darkness shone out those immense stars, and clusters of stars.
Then the most beautiful sight of all was when some star glided past her, and shot afar off into the dark blue beyond—there was such dazzling glory in it!
Sometimes they would be quite near enough to the stars they passed to discern the people who dwelt upon them, and she felt for them a friendship at once, and only longed that she might go down and tell them so.
The child had forgotten she was plain and odd; she did not think to ask herself whether the people on those bright stars, so beautiful and happy, might not repulse her for her homeliness.
At last they did approach one bright star, and Ruth saw, to her delight, that, when the cloud had come down into a lovely garden, the old woman stepped off from it, then took her up also, and placed her on the ground. Then the cloud, which had been their chariot (and a far better one it was than ever king had to be drawn in), rose upward, and began its gentle course in the sky.
When the old woman saw how Ruth looked after it, she said to her:
"I use all the clouds in that way, more or less, and all those about your earth do many such a service while the people little dream of it. In fact, every one there looks down upon the ground too much; they have no idea of the goodly things they would find if they searched upwards more."
The old woman sighed as she said this. Such a happy and pleasant looking old woman to have sighed so deeply!
Then she took Ruth's hand, and led her towards her cottage, which was the most beautiful thing you ever could imagine. Without, it had the tints of the mother-of-pearl, while its framework was of silver. The windows and doors were of diamonds, and there sparkled from them continually all the rich tints of the rainbow. Within, everything was wrought of the finest silver, and the rooms were hung, some in delicate blue silk, others in rose colors.
Ruth was entirely overwhelmed with the beauty of the house,—so much so, as to stand still, looking at the things about her.
"You must be tired with your long ride," the woman said, "and I wish you to rest well; for there are many things I will show you. After you have rested, I will bring you some food."
And, with this, she put Ruth upon a sofa, and made her lay quite down, to refresh herself with sleep. But Ruth thought, in her heart, "Rest! Does she think I can be tired, when I have been sitting upon that soft cloud, looking at the wonderful stars? How could I ever be either tired or hungry?" But she said nothing aloud, for the charm of the old woman's presence hovered over her, and, as soon as she closed her eyes, she fell into a soft and beautiful slumber.
O the dreams Ruth dreamed then! Strangely enough, she thought her father and mother, as well as Grace and Jessie, were riding and playing on clouds; and they were all so happy together, and they seemed to love her very dearly; so that, in her dream, she remembered nothing of their former neglect. She dreamed how her father called her to him, and laid his hand upon her head; and it was such a gentle pressure, and it made her so happy, that she awoke,—and there really was a gentle hand upon her head, and a soft kiss fell upon her lips,—such a touch, and such a kiss, as poor Ruth had scarce ever known before, and which made her quickly twine her arms around the old woman's neck, and kiss her warmly.
Then the old woman put her in one of the silver-wrought chairs, and put before her, on plates sparkling with precious stones, soft, ripe fruit, with a delicious flavor, such as she had never before tasted. She could not help thinking how glad Grace and Jessie would be to see such before them; and so, as at that moment she looked up, and saw the old woman smiling upon her, she took two of the most beautiful and the largest of the fruit and put them in her pocket, for she had no doubt but what, at some time, all too soon, she should go back to the earth.
When she had done this, and finished her delicious repast, which, however, was slowly, for she was so filled with delight, the old woman bade her leave her chair, and come to her; upon which she took her in her arms, and, looking lovingly down upon her, said:
"My dear Ruth, I am going to show you all the treasures which the children upon the earth gather together, in order some time to take with them to heaven. I call their treasures what they love most in their hearts, and put into actions. Everything they do or say is kept very carefully; for one day they will want them. So you see they cannot lose anything. Everything in nature, every cloud that seems only leisurely floating in the sky, is serving some purpose. And all that is done below is borne up here."
Ruth could not help thinking that the old woman might show her some very beautiful and some very curious things to keep; and in sorrow she began to think what unpleasant things of her own were treasured up, to be given back to her some day when she least expected or desired them.
But the old woman said nothing about Ruth's things, but, taking her hand, led her forth into the garden again.
"I am going to show you some things there are here," said her friend; "and if they seem ridiculous to you, don't laugh at them. For my part, I think it sad children will treasure up such miserable things."
They had soon passed into the garden, where Ruth saw the most delicate flowers she had ever seen—they were so tall, and nodded their heads gayly to each other; but when she came to a bed of violets—white ones and blue, so large, larger than she thought it was possible for them to grow—she stopped to gaze upon them in complete admiration; the fragrance, too, was delicious—more so than those her brother had, although those were very fine ones.
"Take some, my child," said the old woman, who watched her delight with a kind smile. So down upon her knees she dropped, and took them, and she could not help thinking how beautiful and lovely a smile would fall upon her from her mother's face, as she gave them to her. So the violets, too, were carefully laid in her pocket for her mother.
Then they passed out from the garden, and came to a gray house; withered flowers lay about it, while briers and nettle-bushes clung to its walls; but, worse than all this, there came forth from the house angry, hateful words, and noises of a mad strife. Ruth feared to pass this place, and clung closely to the old woman's side.
"Here," said the old woman, kindly putting her arm around Ruth, "are kept all those angry words which children speak to each other and their friends; all their little fretful words when they are impatient, and which they will never wish to see again, but which, alas! will be given back to them at a most unwelcome time."
Then they went on to another house, the walls of which were black, and not a green thing grew about it.
"There," said the old woman, "are the treasures of those children who care most for themselves, and do not think of others' pleasures. Those things which they have so loved are kept carefully for them; but they will only tell them of what they have done for themselves." So she opened the door, and Ruth looked in. There was such a medley of things! Candies of gay colors, nice waxen dolls, a great many broken toys, nice fruit, and, indeed, I could not begin to tell you of all Ruth saw there. There had come, too, a mould upon many of the things, so many of them had grown tarnished; and a bad stench rose from some fruit which had been there a long time.
"You see, my child," said the old woman, as she locked up the door, "these things cannot be preserved to look so brightly as when they were first brought here; they all grow rotten; and I cannot prevent the worms creeping in to corrupt them."
Then they met some very black-looking clouds, loaded with things like those Ruth had seen in the two houses, and they were put in with the rest.
"Alas," she sighed, "that the children will send up these things!"
Ruth rejoiced to see that, with quick step, her kind guide passed by many more such houses; for they terrified her. She feared she might hear, if she listened well, some complaint she had uttered, or should see some tarnished toy which she had selfishly treasured. No wonder she liked to hasten by the houses!