THE HAVEN CHILDREN
FROLICS AT THE FUNNY OLD HOUSE ON
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
To CHRISTIAN BAYARD BÖRS,
Who, for Four Years, gave to The Funny House
on Funny Street,
so much of its Life and Brightness,
A Merry Band
of Nieces and Nephews,
This Little Book is Inscribed, by their loving Aunt,
The Haven Children;
FROLICS AT THE FUNNY OLD HOUSE ON
“A dreary place would be this earth,
Were there no little people in it;
The song of life would lose its mirth,
Were there no children to begin it.”
Daisy Havens was awakened from a sound sleep, one bright June morning, by a fearful banging on her bedroom door, and as she rubbed her sleepy eyes, and curled herself up for another nap, there came a shrill volley of boy’s talk through the key-hole.
“I say, Daisy Havens, I’d be ashamed to[Pg 8] be such a sleepy-head. There’s no end of fun going on in the nursery. The Menagerie are all up and dressed, and Mamma has invited them to feed in the dining-room. I say, sleeping beauty, open your ears, if your eyes are shut. Mamma has a letter from Papa, with a surprise for us. So there—sleep on now, as much as you can. I’m off, for one.”
The last shot through the key-hole has taken effect, and Daisy’s bare feet patter quickly across the hall, where, leaning over the bannisters, she catches a glimpse of Artie’s blue sailor-suit, disappearing through the nursery door, from whence proceeds a merry clangor of high-pitched young sopranos and the deeper tones of desperate nurses.
Daisy hastens back, almost forgetting the surprise in store, for very vexation that “Artie couldn’t just wait a minute.”
What trials await her now! Those little elves from the “city of mischief,” so prone to visit children all agog with excitement about some expected pleasure, are all about and around her; now tangling her crimped locks, and cruelly waylaying her comb in its way through them, now whisking off a button or the tin of a boot-lace, now shaking her arm and tumbling her tooth-brush into the slop-jar. Poor Daisy! tears are in her eyes, as she bends over to fish for the troublesome little brush. Alas! her trials are not over, for turning hastily around, she forgets the full pitcher, which, in her bewilderment, she placed on the floor, and now a cool douche reminds her of its presence.
“There’s water, water all around,
But not a drop to drink.”
The pretty rose-buds and fern-leaves on[Pg 10] the new carpet are completely drowned. Daisy’s neat boots are weighed down with their additional weight of water, and Daisy herself stands upon a chair, “sending coals to Newcastle,” as the torrent pours from her blue eyes. Just then the door bursts open, and Jacko, the little monkey, escaped from the family menagerie keeper, shouts out, “Oh, Daisy, ain’t you coming to the exprise?” then lowering his tones as he catches sight of the catastrophe and tearful Daisy on her high perch, cries—
“Was you shipwrecked, Daisy dear, and was you throwed on the rocks? Oh, isn’t it fun to paddle? I think water is the best fun of anything.”
“Dais-y! where is the child?” sounds out a loud, ringing voice, as Rosie, the companion monkey of the family collection, appears on the[Pg 11] threshold. “Doesn’t she know what’s going on? Oh, dear, dear, what a awful splash! What ever’ll happen to you, Miss Daisy?”
With this crumb of doubtful comfort dropped, Rosie runs off panting to the nursery, to tell how “Miss Daisy, that’s always preaching to us children, is behaving a purpose.”
Now Daisy, be it known, is the family owl, and has the habit of looking very grave and wise, and using those aggravating words, “I told you so,” to the younger members of the family, so Daisy’s misfortune, this morning, is rather “nuts” for the companion monkeys to crack.
The news of the “shipwreck” reaches the nursery, and Charlotte, who has a very soft spot in her heart for little folks in distress, and whose office it is to mend the family jars and straighten out the family tangles, hastens to the floating island, rescues the family owl,[Pg 12] dries the dripping feathers, and then marshals the chattering group to the dining-room for the rare pleasure of a “high breakfast” with Mamma and Aunt Lellie.
A smiling greeting there awaits them, and then Mamma bids Artie take Papa’s place at the head of the table, and after a simple grace, enters into the general fun.
“Mamma,” pleads one, “need nobody count our cakes this morning, and may we make our own spread of marmalade?”
“Mamma, dear, can’t we have two helps of strawberries. They are so very delicious, and Charlotte will give us peppermint and sugar if they hurt.”
Aunt Lellie’s suggestion that, by way of preventive, the strawberries should be seasoned with peppermint and sugar, was received with merry laughter, and then the clamor went on.
“Oh, Mamma, just look at Rosie!”
“Bee’s in the honey-pot
Up to its eyes,”
“Oh, I ain’t either, I was just peering to see if the honey would last for another ‘go-round,’” indignantly replied Rosie, whilst the delicate touches of sweets on the end of her “tip-tilted” little nose, and on her round forehead, produced a merry laugh from all, and proved nearly fatal to Jacko, with his mouth full of buttered cakes.
The din of mingled voices, with their interrogations and exclamations, re-echoed by Baby Mocking-Bird’s accompaniment of Pap-spoon Tatto on her plate, began to grow terrific, so Mamma, by a single word, summoned the little ones to perfect quiet, whilst she unfolded “the surprise” in Papa’s letter.
Let us pass over the pleas used to convince Mamma, to the single sentence—
“I want you to send on the whole Menagerie (little Birdie excepted) with one of the nurses, by the Shore-line train, to Providence, Saturday, to accept Aunt Emma’s kind invitation to visit her. Hugh and I will meet them at the station.”
The reading of the letter was followed by an almost painful calm. Its meaning was too great to be taken in all at once, but gradually it dawned upon their bewildered little intellects that this was Saturday, and in less than four hours they would be on their journey to the far-away city and “Aunt Emma,” who was, to them, a sort of good fairy, who always remembered the six birthdays, and seemed a kind of familiar friend of Santa[Pg 15] Claus, or, as Rosie said—“She guessed they had growed up together, and been to the same school.”
However that may be, certain fact it was, that whatever wishes they had whispered up the dark chimney the week before, were sure to be realized when, Christmas morning, the Adams Express wagon left a huge box marked “Providence,” with Aunt Emma’s card fastened on to the plum pudding, so sure to form the first layer, with the good Auntie’s assurance to Mamma, “It was made, by Celia, very weak, to suit the children.”
The nurses now appeared to carry off the younger folk to the nursery, thereby making short work of Jack’s series of joy-speaking somersaults, whose chief feature, much to his elder brother’s scarcely veiled contempt, seemed to be, that the heels never[Pg 16] reached their destination, but remained dangling in the air.
Whilst the little ones, in the nursery, are riding astride the trunks which had appeared there, or tumbling over the piles of clean clothes spread out by Kitty; Artie and Daisy, as eldest son and daughter, are listening to some good advice from Mamma, who is putting the younger members of her flock under their care, urging Artie not to tease poor little Bear, who is really not well, and apt sometimes to be a little tiresome, and—cross, if we must say it. Daisy, too, is to try to be more gentle and patient with her little sister and brother. Then she bids them remember the verse which formed the subject of last Sunday evening’s talk,—“Be ye kindly affectionate one toward another, in honor preferring one another.”
She had then told them in how many ways they might bring sunshine into their own homes, the great outside world, and into their own hearts too, if they were constantly striving to be “kindly affectionate” and studying how they might
“Yield their way to others’ way,”
not selfishly seeking for themselves the best. She begged them to keep this little verse ever in their childish hearts, that so, with the dear Lord’s blessing, its echo might be found in their lives.
Mamma did not make her sober talk very long, for she knew the little heads and hearts had just about enough to fill them now, and she saw Artie’s big blue eyes were growing hazy, for with all his faults, he was a boy of loving heart, where Mamma reigned supreme,[Pg 18] and just then a little cloud was drifting over the bright sunny prospect before him, as he thought of leaving her without Papa or eldest son to care for her.
Little boys know how soon their sailor-coat-sleeves will dry up tearful eyes and let bright sunshine again into boy-hearts (for mammas and nurses well know that a little boy’s handkerchief is a myth), and Artie was soon chasing his sister up the stairs, “two steps at a time,” to hunt for his fishing-line, which, in New York, had only caught such fish as might present themselves, whilst angling over the bannisters, or from between the bars of nursery windows, but now the young fisherman’s eyes sparkled as he thought of squirming perch, silvery scup and tautog to be caught in old Narragansett Bay, as his Papa had done in his boy-days.
“I pray you hear my song of this nest,
For it is not long.”
I suppose I must follow the fashion of all story-tellers, and introduce my young readers to the Haven family, one by one. I grant it is rather tiresome, but you know, the first thing in the study of grammar is to get some knowledge of all the little parts which make up the great Family of Speech; so, in your Geography, you must make the separate acquaintance of little streams and bays as well as of great rivers and oceans, tiny capes, huge promontories, and continents, before you can have much idea of the great[Pg 20] world; so, in every-day life, we get on better, and feel much more at our ease with new acquaintances, after we have learned something about them, so I will begin by telling you that Mr. and Mrs. Havens lived in a brown stone house on Madison avenue, and if you had chanced to pass Forty-second street early some Spring morning, and looked up to the third story windows of one of the houses on your left, you, most likely, would have seen six little faces looking out, six little noses and six pairs of chubby cheeks flattened against the window-panes, earnestly studying the movements of that little girl in soiled dress. Poor child! her tatters, flapping apart with the motion of the warm south wind, show two thin, stockingless, shoeless legs, telling a tale of want and neglect at home, as her little iron hook clinks against the curb-stones,[Pg 21] seeking to find hidden treasures of rags or bread-crust to fill the bag she bears. Do you guess why the thin, soiled, childish face looks up so earnestly at the window of No. 310, as she passes? It is because there she finds the one little rift of cheer which steals into the poor heart, the day long. Child as she is, knowing nothing of a true home and mother’s tenderness, she reads, with a child’s instinct, the sympathy and companionship in those bright young faces, and well remembers how, early every Sunday morning, a little basket is let down from those windows filled with nice bits which the children have saved from their Saturday’s dinner and Sunday’s breakfast, gifts costing them often a little self-denial, for which they are well repaid by the bright look in the girl’s face as she draws out the apple or the orange which, yesterday,[Pg 22] was handled over so many times, and wistfully gazed at before its owner could quite willingly consign it to the little basket. Can you not see, now, why Papa and Mamma, gazing from the windows, regard that poor child’s bag with so much interest, nay, almost reverence? They feel as if, somehow, it became the little altar on which, each Lord’s day, their dear ones offered up their gifts of that which had cost them something of self-denial, and they prayed that the Holy Dove might ever nestle in their young hearts, prompting to love and kindly deeds which, offered to those little neglected city waifs, is indeed offered to Him who has said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these little ones, ye have done it unto Me.”
Those third-story windows let in, too, a deal of sunlight to the Family Menagerie, in[Pg 23] the nursery, where the Keeper, Master Artie, a bright boy of ten, when not engaged—as, very sorry I am to say it, he sometimes is—in teasing the little animals in the nursery cage, is often to be found quirled up in the wide window-seat, following Napoleon Bonaparte through his snowy Russian marches, or on the bloody, fatal field of Waterloo, or reading aloud to the never-wearied trio of the wonderful content and skilful management of that remarkable Swiss Family Robinson, who seem to have borrowed the brains as well as the daring of the great Crusoe.
Daisy, the family Owl, has a wise look beaming from her large full eyes. Seldom does eight years bring such a deal of wisdom to a young mind, such wonderful acuteness in discovering family faults, and such readiness in reproving the same; but Daisy is loving, per[Pg 24]fectly truthful, and really a great help to the nurses in the care of the little ones. She is a most devoted mother to two wax, two china, and one large rag doll. Patiently and uncomplainingly, has she watched over their sick-beds, nursing them tenderly through their various stages of whooping cough, measles, and scarlet fever, and the nurses tell “how pale Miss Daisy looked, one morning, when, on going to Felicie’s little bed, she saw the face of the young French beauty quite disfigured with what was, probably, the very disease which was then raging in New York.”
Poor Felicie was taken, for fear of infection, to the attic, and even now, bears traces of the sad disease. It was a most curious fact that Master Artie, too, was kept, that very day, in solitary confinement by Mamma for some reason, and it was whispered among[Pg 25] the servants that he could tell, better than any one else, just how and where Felicie caught the disease. Two kittens claim Daisy as their Mamma also; she is very careful of them, fearful that their lives may be brief, like those of most of her pets; and it is strange that kittens, grown in the same house with small boys, are not generally long-lived.
There is quite a miniature cemetery at the farther end of the little garden. A thrifty fish geranium shelters the grave of three little pets who once inhabited the aquarium in the nursery and delighted the little ones by their golden flashes, as they gayly tossed about.
One morning the little lake was very, very smooth and still. No more golden rays flashed forth. Three little fishes lay quite dead! Somehow, for a careful search revealed the[Pg 26] fact, their bill of fare had been changed, and Papa’s science proved very clearly that their new diet had been too rich for them.
A little farther on, tiny rose-bushes adorn the graves of kittens numberless whose life’s tales had been very short. Two tiny tablets mark the graves of a lovely bullfinch and a rare canary, whose last resting-places have been moistened by true mourners’ tears.
In the attic, a miniature house may be seen. Daisy alone keeps the key, and rarely allows visitors to enter. Peeping through the little windows, the invalid chairs and snow-white beds reveal the fact that this is the “Doll Hospital.” Incurables are admitted too, for there is a headless doll, apparently standing to look out of the window. There lies a patient with an abscess or hole in her side. I can guess what young surgeon’s knife ex[Pg 27]plored there. By this poor, thin dolly sits another, with bandaged head slightly turned on one side. In the male ward there are no end of patients, one-legged, no-legged, armless, toothless, eyeless, noseless.
“Ah, it is pitiful!
In this whole housefull,
A little vase of flowers on a white covered table, and various other little tokens plainly show that the little “Sister of Mercy’s” visits to the Hospital are very frequent.
I have wandered far from the nursery, and now must quickly retrace my steps, for still there is Rosie’s round, chubby face, whose archness is partly veiled by the shower of golden curls which screen the mischief their owner is sure to be hatching, and funny,[Pg 28] laughing Jack, the companion monkey. These two little folk are, generally, to be found with their heads together, conscious that the eyes of the two nurses are on the watch for their schemes.
Beg pardon Bear, or Master Harry, your six years, with their little burden of hours of pain and languor, which give your dark eyes such a wistful look, as of longing for the great health-gift which makes child-life such
“A thing of joy and beauty,”
entitle you to be introduced before the pair of rollicking young monkies. Dear little Bear, do you know why Mamma and nurses deal so gently with your impatience, and Sister Daisy soothes you with such loving tones? Ah me! there is a cloud-fleck somewhere in the bluest sky,—a shadow on each sun-lit path,[Pg 29] a withered leaf on every plant,—the dear Lord places a cross in every Eden, side by side with richest earthly blessings.
One more little figure attracts us, whose sunny ringlets, like a golden setting, encircle the fair face of the peerless little Lily, the Nursery Queen, at whose shrine brothers and sisters bow most loyal subjects.
Yes, little Mocking-bird, your sway is undisputed, you may pull off Aunt Kitty’s cap-strings, wring young Jacko’s saucy nose, tear the leaves of Artie’s book, or even, unrebuked, hurl your rattle at poor little Bear’s pale face. It is all right! The acts of Queen Baby are never questioned by her willing subjects.
“Whirled on with shriek and whistle.”
Let us draw a curtain over the scenes of the last hour at home, for partings, though some have called them
“Such sweet sorrow,”
have a deal of the bitter mingled with them, when a dear Mamma and baby-sisters have to be left behind.
The last bell has sounded, the last trunk been hurled into the baggage-car, the last “All aboard” has been shouted, and the “Shore-Line Express Train,” with its precious load of human life, is steaming out from under the[Pg 31] shelter of the Grand Central, rushing through the Forties, Fifties, Sixties, and past the beautiful Park, with hasty glimpses at its trees, Casino, lakes, and glittering equipages.
The little travelling party have a section in the Palace Car, and there they are sitting very demurely; they are not used to travelling, for Mamma’s idea has always been that “Home is the best place for little folk,” and now they are somewhat stunned by the strangeness and excitement; but suddenly Rosie, who is not apt to stay “stunned,” screams—
“O, childerns, do look out of the window. We are riding on nothing, with all the world both sides of us.”
The sight which met the young, eager eyes was indeed wonderful. Ignorant of any danger, they seemed held in the air by some magic spell. They are fairly roused now;[Pg 32] their spirits rise to the highest point, as they chatter of bridges, rocks, tiny men, women, and houses beneath, when suddenly, without any preparation, a “horror of great darkness” comes over them. What can it mean? The cold, damp dungeon, and the loud, clanging sounds? The little faces look ghastly white by the light of the flickering lamps above them, as they cling close to good Charlotte.
With the feeling of terror, to the older ones, comes back, in the twinkling of an eye, thoughts of Him to whom they have been taught “the darkness and the light are both alike.” Half unconsciously, little prayers linger on their lips, thoughts of dear Mamma, with resolves to be more “kindly affectioned,” and then they come out again into the welcome light, and as the heavy weight of fear is lifted from their childish hearts, their spirits[Pg 33] rise with every advancing mile, till their merry peals and funny speeches call forth smiles from many travellers in the car without.
Still on they go, with the ceaseless jarring and unearthly whistle’s shriek, through towns and villages, woods and meadows; now journeying side by side with the blue waters of the Sound, with its grateful breezes, its tiny craft and pebbly shore; now hiding behind some hill or grove to come springing upon the smiling water-view again.
Little eyes are growing weary of sight-seeing. To little ears the cries of conductors, pop-corn and prize-package venders have lost their freshness; the sun seems suddenly to grow very hot. The cage seems very narrow. Artie is crowding Daisy, and Bear “thinks the Monkies might stop their chatter, for his head aches.” Suddenly a cool, fresh sea-breeze[Pg 34] blows through the heated car,—a loud bell peals, a heavy jolt shakes the train, and Jack screams—
“Oh, childerns the cars is riding in a steamboat,” and Daisy reminds Charlotte—
“This is the time Mamma said we were to dine.”
What a merry pic-nic now! Hannah, the cook’s, preparation of that basket was, indeed, a labor of love.
Such rolls, with a “plenty of butter!” Such “a many chicken-wings” and “drumsticks” to be picked!
Oh, Mamma! could you have the heart to deny poor Hannah the pleasure of “smuggling” in those tiny gooseberry tartlets?
Good old Hannah! it was the thought of the pleasure those unusual dainties would give the tired travellers, which moistened your eye[Pg 35] as you stowed the basket in the carriage at the door, for you dearly love those bairnies, and have welcomed each one into the world of sorrow and gladness as you did the Mother-bird, in your younger days; and those dainty morsels are messages from your big heart, your own simple way of telling them how dear they are to those they have left behind. How you would have enjoyed the little dialogue which followed the swallowing of the last crumb!
Jack speaks: “Rosie, if I was a great King, I would have Hannah for my wife, and eat gooseberry tarts all day long, and Sundays too, and never stop.”
“Sister Daisy,” breaks in Rosie, “do you suspect if the misshenries should give the heathen-crocodiles plenty of gooseberry tarts, they would eat such a many childerns?”
Sister Daisy is, just now, occupied in peering under the napkin’s folds, if, perchance, an extra tart might be there concealed, and wondering if it would be her duty to divide it with all the little ones, so she replied, with some tartness in her tones,—
“How foolish! if you will talk sense, I will answer you,” and Jack replies meekly for his companion—
“Little folks can’t always tell sense, Sister Daisy.”
There is one more package, marked, “From Mamma; not to be opened till an hour after dinner,” and when the hour passed, there were found bright golden bananas and oranges, with their luscious juiciness, to refresh and amuse the weary little travellers.
That fruit did a double duty, for the children braided the banana rinds, made “gums”[Pg 37] of the orange-peel, and filliped the pits out of the window, till nothing was left of their feast; then, as the sun went down behind the far-away hills, the little limbs grew weary, little tempers fretful. Daisy then remembered “to be kindly affectionate one toward another,” and with a half-suppressed sigh, closed that interesting book, “Cushions and Corners,” just at that thrilling part when the two children “are making wine jelly, or rather spilling wine jelly on the kitchen floor,” and taking Rosie and Jack, one on either side, she tells them the story of the little Cushions who ever were and remained Cushions, and the little Corners that became Cushions, after much tribulation.
Daisy is well paid for her self-denial by the interest the little upturned faces show, and soothed by her gentle tones, Bear droops his[Pg 38] tired head on the shawl-pillow Artie has fixed on Charlotte’s knee.
The kind elder sister’s power of story-telling was at last quite exhausted, and her spirit ready to rebel at Jack’s continued plea.
“Do, Sister Daisy, do tell another. It’s so hot and tired here.”
Just then a pleasant face looked out of the opposite section, and a kindly voice called out—
“Come, little folk, come into my den, and I’ll tell you no end of stories.”
There was no hesitation then. Cushions and Corners, nurse, dolls, and sleeping brother were all left behind.
That section must have been made of India rubber; originally, it held but two, and its occupant, the clergyman of —— Church, Providence, who formed the centre figure of the[Pg 39] group, was no shadowy outline, but real flesh and bones, and a great deal of both, yet there was room for Artie and Daisy on either side, whilst for Rosie and Jack, there was a knee apiece, and a shoulder, too, for each tired head; for the clergyman had well conned the lesson of his Master—
“As ye have done it unto one of these little ones, ye have done it unto Me,” and so it was that the shrill whistle shrieked out their near approach to Providence, tired travellers took down their wraps and bundles from the racks above, and Bear started, with a fretful cry, before the children had thought of growing weary of the stories of Narragansett Bay, the Indians who once inhabited its shore, with hosts of boy-adventures so frightful as to make them shiver, or so funny as to make them hold their wearied sides.
The kind clergyman lifted poor little Bear, too tired to resist, and tenderly placed him in Papa’s arms, who gratefully pressed the stranger’s hand, whilst his quick eye searched for each household darling to make them over to Hugh’s care, to be piloted through the line of noisy hack and baggage-men, to the waiting carriage.
Little Jack remembered to lift his hat, as he again caught sight of the stranger clergyman disappearing in the crowd, and cried out, to his lady-like Sister Daisy’s horror—
“Good-bye, Mister Story Teller.”
Barnum’s animals, in their cages, passing through a city’s crowded streets, are remarkably quiet and well-behaved, but many an inhabitant of the good city looked up, that night, as a large, old-fashioned family carriage and two bay horses, driven by the blackest of[Pg 41] coachmen, displaying, in a very pleased and harmless way, the whitest of teeth, bearing the noisy little Madison Avenue Menagerie, rattled over the curb-stones of Exchange Place, right under the shadow of the Soldiers’ monument, through Westminster street, in its fearful narrowness, and over the Great Bridge. The carriage halted here a moment that the little animals might catch a breath of the fresh sea air coming up from the bay, through the little river which forms the lungs of Providence, and gives this beautiful city its Venetian aspect.
With mingled feelings of enjoyment and terror, the young folk see themselves ascending the steep hill-side, and are nothing loath to find the carriage halting before a quaint, old house, whose every window sends out a stream of light to welcome them.
A cheery-looking old colored woman, with a brightly-turbaned head, appears at the door, whilst a younger one peeps over her shoulder. Papa calls out in a proud, glad tone—
“Here, Celia and Nan, come get these poor, stray, hungry little creatures. I found them at the station and took pity on them. I make them over to you and wish you joy in your bargain—
“So give them a supper of water and bread,
Then whip them all soundly and send them to bed.”
Papa’s jokes were always well received and the little folk forgot the strangeness, as they were unpacked by him and Hugh, to be handed over to Celia and Nan’s tender care. Little Jack seemed to grow an inch taller at hearing Celia cry out—
“Now then, Mister John, this child be’s[Pg 43] your werry own self. Them feeters is just your own. Bless the creeter. He’s my mans.”
Papa looked at Jack’s saucy little pug nose, and felt his own Grecian feature, evidently very much struck with the great resemblance, then passed on, with Bear in his arms, to the library door, where good Aunt Emma was hugging and being hugged by the other three.
Dear old Auntie, with your plain, kindly face, and silver, corkscrew curls! The tears of joy which sprang to your eyes when you greeted your favorite nephew’s treasures, well up and course rapidly down your thin cheeks as your heart goes out in sympathy for the tired little boy with the melancholy, wistful look.
Old Celia now appears, with Jack’s fat[Pg 44] legs dangling over her arms, whilst the round face is very rosy, partly from suffocation in her tight clasp, and partly from mortification at being thus publicly “babied.”
No sooner were the greetings finished, than Celia cried out—
“Come, children to the nursery, we’ll just give a shake to them gowns and trowsers, and wipe off a bit of the dust from your little faces, and then have a bit of somethin’. Bread and water! Did ye hear tell? I guess it’s likely in this yer house, and old Celia in it! Allers Mister John must have his little joke.”
The nursery looked so cool and pleasant, and the little table with its tempting feast so inviting, that even Bear submitted without resistance to a cool face-sponging and hair-dressing.
Papa and Aunt Emma came up to see the little ones at the table enjoying the good things Celia had provided.
Papa shook his head, more than once, as tiny, light biscuits, cold chicken, and strawberries disappeared, much to Celia and Nan’s satisfaction.
Refreshed by the rest and pleasant meal, everything was “merry as a marriage bell.” Daisy thought “How easy it is going to be, here, to be ‘Cushions’ all the time, in such a nice, cool place as Providence.”
The Monkey chattered over their famous jokes, and Bear’s laugh thrilled Papa’s soul as no strain of sweet music could have done.
The older ones bade the young party “Good-night,” and left them to their nurses, Papa whispering to Aunt Emma, as they left the room—
“I am afraid we shall hear from that feast, Auntie. I shall have to spend the night reading ‘Dewees on Children’s Diseases.’ I suspect Fanny would think me very unfit to be trusted with her bairns.”
“Never fear,” merrily replied Aunt Emma, “they are breathing sea air, and are so happy, their food will do them no harm, I am quite sure, and if Celia and I can help it, they shan’t see hominy or oat-meal whilst they are here. Bless the darlings!”
“Dippity dash, dippity dash,
Wash his face with a merry splash!
Polish it well with a towel fine,—
Oh, how his eyes and his cheeks will shine!
Dippity dash, dippity dash.”
Sunday morning’s sun peered long into the windows of the quaint house on Funny street; the milkmen,
“All dressed in their Sunday suits,”
completed their rounds, Grace Church chimes rang out “Jerusalem the Golden,” and the “Old Baptist” bell sent forth its loud, full tones, before the heavy eyelids of three little travellers had opened wide enough to take in any idea of their whereabouts.
Artie and Daisy, in snow-white suits, have breakfasted down stairs, and are now curled up in comfortable sofa-corners, reading the “Children’s Magazine.” Hugh’s voice is heard through the open window, as he sings—
“I am passing, passing, passing over Jordan,”
to the accompaniment of jingling spoons and clattering dishes, whilst Celia and Nan have stolen up to the nursery for a half-hour’s chat with Charlotte, and to aid at the morning bath.
Little Bear wakes languid and fretful, entirely unwilling that good old Celia should aid, or even touch him, whilst the two Monkeys chatter and splash in their bath, good-natured and merry, as if they had only travelled to the Park and back.
Splashed and bathed, rubbed and scrubbed,[Pg 49] brushed and flushed, the little folk draw around the waiting table, and can scarcely eat for laughing at the prodigious joke that they,—
“Have real-for-fair beef-steak, like grown-up folk, and buttered toast.”
Suddenly, the door opens to admit Papa, and then the laugh has to be repeated with him, so funny it is that “little Monkeys and Bears should go to visit, and be fed on cooked beef-steak and buttered toast.”
“Papa is all drest
In his Sunday best,
so, carefully avoids the little buttered fingers, soon waving good-bye, for the bells are tolling Church-time, and Aunt Emma, Daisy, and Artie are waiting below.
“Do they have Sundays up here to my Aunt Emma’s house all the time, Nan, and[Pg 50] week-days too?” anxiously asks little Jack, with mouth full of buttered toast.
“That we don’t, childy,” she replies; “we don’t have Sundays here more than common, and never on a week-day as I remember; but I am just going to stop home from Church to-day and help amuse you. Let me wipe your little fingers and then I’ll just get the very same Noah’s Ark your Papa used to have when he was a child, for Miss Emma keeps it precious as gold.”
“Nan, I guess it’s best not,” timidly interrupted Bear. “Mamma lets us have picture-books and stories and pencils, but she’d a little rather we wouldn’t have out our toys Sundays. Only Lily has hers.”
“But I don’t think,” said Nan, “your Mamma would object to a Noah’s Ark, it is such a very pious toy, and I could be telling you[Pg 51] the Scripture-story, whilst the family and animals are being walked out.”
“Yes, do, Nan dear,” burst in Rosie, whilst Jack stood listening eagerly, convinced first by one party, and again by the other. “It would just do for a Bible lesson, you know, like Sunday-school.”
“But, Rosie,” remonstrated Bear, “when we are away from our Mamma, we ought to do what she likes, and you know how many times she tells us if we give up our toys on Sunday, it will be the same as a
“Little work of love and praise
That we may do for Jesus’ sake;”
but we might play Sunday-school, with chairs, if Charlotte would be teacher, and she can tell stories good as any book, except Mamma.”
The Sunday-school idea was eagerly seized upon, and the chairs were soon arranged in Sunday-school order. Then Nan and her class of little ones stood up in most proper order whilst they sang Charlotte’s favorite hymn—
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let angels prostrate fall,
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.”
Bear’s sweet treble blended nicely with the two women’s clear notes, whilst Rosie and Jack sang true to their own idea of time, and enjoyed the discord very much.
Then followed a mild amount of Catechism, and Bear chose, “Jerusalem the Golden,” for another “sing,” then Jack asked—
“Miss Sunday-school teacher, can’t we each another tell a true Bible story, and me begin?”
The teacher assented, and Jack began, at first, very confidently—
“Well, now, there was a little fellow, so big as me, and his name was Jofef, and his Papa made him a coat, very buful one, blue and red and buful brass buttons, like Fourth of July soldiers’ coats, only there wasn’t no pantaloons with stripes, and—and two little pockets like mine with hankshef, his Mamma put in, with his name Jack (I mean Jofef) in the corner, and he took and—and popped some corn and—er, and—er, I guess it’s your turn, Rosie.”
“Well, then, I’ll finish it. He took the popped corns out to his brethren, ten nine or twelve of them, making hay in the field, and the wicked lots of brethren just ran and tossed the poor little fellow into a pit, and took the span new coat his Papa made him, and got[Pg 54] some dreadful-for-fair blood and dipt it in, so as to make bl’eve to their father that his dear little son was dead, and killed by the wild animals that’s raging in the dark, wild wood.—Nan, I hope there’s no wild woods in Providence. No? Well, I’m glad of it.”
“Rosie, child, what are you about?” impatiently asked Bear; “don’t you know this is Sunday-school.”
“Oh, oh yes, I forgot. Well, then, where was I? Oh, I know; the father was very sad, there was nothing to eat in the pantries, nor in the barns, only there was something about a silver cup in a bag, but, and, well—a pin seems sticking in me, Charlotte, and I believe my new little bronze boot pinches a little right behind the heel. Isn’t it most Bear’s turn?”
Bear’s story was so well and truly told, that[Pg 55] the children’s interest was fairly roused, and Celia stole in upon them quite unobserved, with something hid under her apron.
The little Monkeys were the first to spy out the suspicious little heap, and the promise of something, speaking in old Celia’s eyes, so grew very restless during the last hymn, and whether by accident or otherwise, we don’t feel able to say, Jack sang out Amen at the end of the second verse, and fairly put an end to the Sunday-school by tipping over one of the chairs, in his eagerness to reach Celia’s lap, and stealing in his little chubby thumb
“He drew out a plum,”
in the form of a fine, red-cheeked cherry, and Celia apologized for interrupting their exercises by saying—
“I thought may be you’d just like to finish[Pg 56] up with a Sunday-school pic-nic, so I brought you a few cherries.”
The little folk were quite ready for any change. The cherries were ripe and very delicious, and found a ready market amongst the little scholars. Then Nan good-naturedly assented to Jack’s request, who doubtfully watched Bear’s countenance as he uttered it,—
“Please, Nan, to make each of us a Sunday tea-kettle out of a stem-cherry?”
A few moments later Daisy enters the room and inquires, in a very eldest-sisterish tone,—
“Well, what have you young folks been doing since I left you?”
“Been singing, and telling stories, and going to pic-nics, Miss Daisy,” quickly replied Rosie.
“Oh Rosie Havens, what a naughty child to be telling a story, on Sunday too!”
“Sister Daisy, is a story worser on Sundays[Pg 57] nor on Tuesdays and Fridays?” quickly asked Jack.
Daisy pays no attention to the eager little face upturned to hers, but hurriedly passes out of the room, saying—
“I was just going to tell you about the beautiful church I went to, but I shan’t now, I will go down stairs and read instead.”
Rosie Havens is a proud little creature, and shrugs her saucy shoulders, saying,—
“Miss Daisy is so very stylish in her new Polyness dress, she can’t understand children.”
Jack, however, is unwilling to lose the chance of hearing about the beautiful church, so he runs to call over the bannisters,—
“Sister Daisy, do come and tell us all about it. Rosie was only squizzing you. It was only but a cherry pic-nic, and meant no harm, and[Pg 58] here’s a Sunday stem-cherry tea-kettle you may have for your own self.”
Sister Daisy makes no reply, then the little voice over the bannisters takes a more pleading tone,—
“Won’t you only please just to come, sister? We will be so good as ever we can.”
Surely, if Daisy would only turn and see that little chubby face flattened against the stair-railing, looking so flushed and entreating, that very little face that always has such a merry good-natured look, and is always ready to smile assent when asked to run her many older sister errands, surely she could not still pursue her down-stairs journey.
When she left church, touched and softened by what she had there heard and seen, like many an older person, she resolved to be “so good to-day, so kindly affectioned,” and as the[Pg 59] soft south wind gently brushed her ringlets, and sweet odors from summer flowers in the little door-yards she passed, greeted her, the impressions deepened, and she longed to be
“Good and holy, pure and true.”
Then came thoughts of home and the nursery group where she might do her “little deeds of kindness,” and Daisy said,—
“Soon as I have taken off my things, I will go and stay with the children and help amuse them.”
I think Daisy fairly meant to do this, but as she passed through the dining-room for a drink of ice-water, the cool sound of vine-leaves rustling called her attention to such a nice shaded window-ledge, where she might rest her book, enjoy her “Goldy” story, and watch the busy insects and the floating clouds,[Pg 60] by turn. The nursery path of duty didn’t look very inviting now, besides, “wasn’t she very tired, scarcely rested indeed, after yesterday’s long journey?” Then Daisy uttered aloud these not very gracious words,—
“Well, I suppose I’ve got to go and be shut up with those three troublesome children; I wish they had been left at home.”
So Daisy slowly went up stairs. She thought she was conquering self, that troublesome little enemy, but that was her mistake. She had not calculated how powerful her little enemy was, nor all the weapons he could bring to defend himself. She had, it is true, made a slight thrust at him when she said,—
“I suppose I’ve got to,” and still another and a surer, when she turned her back and started to go up stairs, but still she had not wounded him mortally, so the little fellow[Pg 61] limped up stairs after her, all unknown to the confident Daisy.
When Rosie triumphantly announced the good time “pic-nicking and story-telling,” and Daisy saw no prospect of cherries saved for her, her good resolutions grew fainter; then—then was the time for “self” to assert himself, and that time he conquered fully, and so uproarious did the little fellow grow, as Daisy turned her back upon the nursery path of duty, that Jack’s voice was nearly drowned, as little “self” hurled back his tiny cannon-balls of “good reasons” why in reply.
Somehow, the window-ledge with the story-book on it isn’t quite satisfying, after all. Goldy’s girlish face seems to turn, ever and anon, into that of a pleading little boy, and Daisy herself seems, in some strange manner, to be accountable for Goldy’s tribulations. A[Pg 62] golden butterfly lights on her book, and as her eyes follow its upward course, they rest on the pure blue of the sky, and follow the floating summer clouds in their God-directed way. Then comes to the little Christian child, a remembrance of Him who can read our every thoughts, and then self seems to shrink lower and lower, and the upward glance becomes a little prayer for
“Grace to conquer and to help us to the end,”
and the still, small voice of conscience repeats the verse of the lesson heard in Church that very morning—
“Not rendering evil for evil, but contrariwise, blessing,” and Daisy listens to the voice; she thrusts aside the book, and a moment later enters the nursery with bright, kindly face, saying,—
“Charlotte, wouldn’t you like to go down stairs and rest with Celia and Nan? I’ll amuse the children.”
Daisy’s kindly spirit seems to affect all the little folk. Artie takes “slippery Jack,” as he likes to call him, upon his knee, little Bear leans against his sister’s shoulder, and Rosie takes a cushion at her feet.
First, she tells them of the sound of many voices singing their favorite hymn—
“Jerusalem the Golden,”
which sounded far away at first, and then became louder, as a procession of men and boys came in the church, some of whom were no bigger than Artie, and yet sang the hymn very nicely.
“Then there were such lovely windows! One, where St. Stephen stood holding stones.[Pg 64] It seemed to me just as if he must love them, he was holding them so close to his heart, and when I told Aunt Emma so, she said in these very words—
“‘Perhaps you are right, Daisy. Our greatest trials, if borne meekly for the dear Lord’s sake, may become our greatest blessings. In every pain or trouble we may hear God telling us of His love for us.’”
“Say that again, Sister Daisy,” whispered little Bear; “that about pain and trouble, and sit a little closer, please.”
“There was a picture of St. Lawrence, side by side with St. Stephen. They were such great friends, and he was burned to death on hot irons because he loved the Lord so dearly. There were pictures of St. Peter and Moses, and David too. I liked so much to look at them, and Aunt Emma said Hugh[Pg 65] should take you all up there to see them after the service.”
“Oh, goody, goody,” began little Jack, but Artie clapped his hands over his mouth, and caught his flying feet, that his sister’s story might not be interrupted.
“There was one window in the church where a woman was giving clothes and bread to poor people. It was in memory of a dear, good lady, whom everybody loved, for she spent her whole life in visiting the sick and poor, and doing kind deeds and saying comforting words. The tears stood in Aunt Emma’s eyes as she looked at that window, for she had known and loved the gentle lady, and she told me that some of those very poor people would still walk miles to visit her grave, and then she said, ‘God grant, little daughter, that you may grow to be such a[Pg 66] lovely, Christian woman. You must begin by faithfully doing, with God’s help, the little every-day duties nearest you.’ Then, oh! there were lovely windows of little children, and one you must surely look at, for a dear little girl, no bigger than Rosie, is kneeling at Christ’s feet. She has lain down her cross there, which means some trouble or pain she had patiently borne, and the dear Lord was holding out for reward a lovely crown for her head. Then there was a city, and the moon was rising over it, and a white angel was going up into the moonlit sky, carrying, so tenderly, a little child.”
“Daisy, do you suppose,” interrupted little Bear, “that little child that bore the cross, ever felt fretful, and spoke cross to her sisters, and brothers, and didn’t mean to?”
“Yes, little brother; don’t you remember Mamma told us we were young Christian soldiers, and would have our little battles with our sinful nature to fight every day and hour till our life’s end? But there’s the dinner-bell, and I must go down stairs; and I forgot to tell you, Auntie wants you all to come down to dessert to-day.”
“Wait, sister darling,” pleaded Rosie, for Daisy’s kindly spirit had broken down the little wall of pride which had risen between the sisters. “I wanted to give you a sailor kiss. You are a darling dear, and beautiful as a—as a—”
“Baboon’s sister,” mischievous Artie interposed. Daisy’s gentleness took no offence at the rather impolite quotation, and Rosie, knowing only the very few animals included in the Family Menagerie, supposed[Pg 68] the phrase to be very complimentary, and added,—
“You are not looking one bit stylish in your new Pollyness dress, and I was only funnin’ to say so, darling pet.”
“O children! come and look at me!
Was ever rain in such a glee
As I have been all day?
Drop chasing drop most merrily,
Jostling each other clumsily,
You’d think we were in play.
“And yet see how much work we’ve done,
And then you’ll see we’re not in fun,
Whate’er you thought before.
We’ve driven the sun out of the sky,
Made all the trees and bushes cry,
And tightly closed the door.”
Alas for the best-laid plans of children, mice, and maiden aunties! Even in Providence (though only forty miles from Boston) the sun does not always shine, and so[Pg 70] it was that the first sounds that greeted the waking ears of the little folk in the Funny house on Funny street, were the patter, patter, on the window panes, drip, drip, from the house eaves,
“The splashing, dashing,
of the stream of water, which, starting from College Hill, plunges down Funny street in its mad race to empty itself into the river basin, before its hundred fellow-streams should outstrip it.
“Why didn’t this rain put in an appearance yesterday, I should like to know? Of all the dry, poky days in a boy’s life, I do think a rainy day is just the dryest. Why couldn’t we have had a rainy Sunday and done with it?” petulantly demanded the Keeper, and[Pg 71] even the wisdom of the Owl failed to find answer.
The Keeper’s state of mind was not favorable to the peace and well-being of the little animals in his care, and he hid Bear’s stockings, flung the soapy sponge into Jacko’s eyes, and interrupted Rosie’s eighty times of
“Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never, never, come again;”
which was sure to bring sunshine, till at last Charlotte’s patience was quite exhausted, so Papa was appealed to, and the Keeper summoned to sit in the Library corner a full hour, without even a book to relieve the tiresomeness; but when Papa’s morning visit to the nursery revealed the fact that the same mischievous spirit had thickly powdered the children’s strawberries, and flavored their goblets of[Pg 72] milk with salt, Master Keeper was sentenced to solitary confinement in his own room, and in order to confuse the plans of the Evil Spirit,
“Who finds mischief still
For idle minds to brew,”
Papa administered a check in the shape of a poem to be learned before the young gentleman should dine, and poor Master Artie feasted on a few of his own salt tear-drops, whilst searching ruefully for the ne’er-to-be-found handkerchief, and muttering—
“I wish I was out of this mean, old, rainy, gloomy town. Mamma would have understood how I just went in for a little fun. I’ll have it out of Charlotte yet, for this mess. She shall pay well for serving me this shabby trick. Pshaw! I do despise tell-tales. She shall hear from me. See if she don’t.”
I am afraid the rounds of Aunt Emma’s nice chairs were not improved in their appearance by the Keeper’s state of mind, so strong is the sympathy between little boys’ hearts and their feet; whilst the latter help to flee from coming danger or evil, they also seem to help them to bear present discomfort. Now, we don’t, for a moment, mean to recommend little boys in trouble to relieve themselves by disfiguring furniture—far from that—but we believe many a boy’s battle has been fought successfully, with angry, bitter feelings, many a troubled mood dispelled during a good, stirring game of foot-ball in the fresh, clear air. Try it, boys, the next time everything “bothers” and life seems “just one tangle,”—everybody saying, “Don’t do this,” or, “Why do you do that?” Sometimes it must seem to you as if there was no place for boys, so apt are[Pg 74] we, old folk, with our nerves and nice surroundings, to forget our own “long ago.” If the foot-ball plan be not possible, then make your own place for boys, by doing some helpful deed for others, stifling your love of mischief, which, if you will stop to think, you will soon find has its root in thoughtlessness and love of self. All about and around you, may be found, if you earnestly seek, plenty of material to make for yourselves places in good people’s hearts, memories, and sympathies.
Try it, boys, only test the scheme, the very effort will discover the means.
Let us go back to the Keeper caged. Is he dashing still, in fury, against the bars?
No. There he sits, quietly studying his task, with a sunlit face which bears tokens of showers lately passed.
It may be that, in fancy, he had caught a[Pg 75] glimpse of Mamma’s sad, disappointed face; very true it is that Mamma’s teaching has come to his mind, and then the morning prayer, so hurriedly said, “Deliver us from evil.” Then Artie looks upward, the promised Spirit descends as a Dove, stilling the troubled waters of the passionate boy nature, breathing in repentant feelings and helps to right doing.
The “nearest duty must first be done;” and Artie takes up the dreaded task to find his Papa has kindly chosen
“How do the waters come down at Ladore?”
and very soon troubles, vexations, and the pattering drops without, are all forgotten in the bright meaning and jolly rhythm of the
“Poet laureate to you and the Queen.”
In the nursery fair weather prevailed, for Nan has made her beds and dusted her rooms in the twinkling of an eye, for her heart is in the “nussry,” and there she sits on the floor, introducing to the delighted children, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, with their wives, in their stiff red and yellow waterproof clothes, for you know, children, the wardrobe of Noah’s family must have been a very scanty one.
Nan had her own stories to tell, as the “two by twos” joined the procession, stories so well and confidently told, that the little folk feel as if they were standing on Mount Ararat itself, watching the procession go by.
Presently Jack’s bright eyes discover a pale, wistful face pressed against the window-pane of the next house, and immediately, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and the “two by twos” are deserted for the new acquaintance.
The little boy disappears for a few moments, and then returns with a paper, on which is printed, in large inky letters,
WHO ARE YOU?
Jack makes great endeavors to communicate to his new friend his name, street, and number; and the “neighborhood boy,” as he calls him, seems content to continue the acquaintance, and brings to the window toys and picture-books for Jack’s approval.
Nan seems suddenly to be struck with a new idea, which sends her flying down the back stairs, and soon after the small boy disappears from the window, greatly to the grief of the nursery party.
Presently a heavy tread is heard, and Hugh enters the room and deposits on the floor a large bundle carefully done up in waterproof[Pg 78] cloth, which Nan, who closely follows, proceeds to unpack.
I wish you could have heard the merry shouts and clapping of hands, when slowly emerged from that huge bundle the very same smiling little fellow who had so few moments before disappeared from the other window. What a Nan!
Just listen to what she has to tell:
“Mistress has given me the day to help amuse you, and here’s the key of the big garret.”
Do you wonder that Jack’s heels were flying in the air, and Rosie dancing around and around, and Artie’s rhyming genius inspired him to cry out:
“O Nan of Nans, O Nan the Nanniest,
O plan of plans, O plan the planniest;”
and then he rushed to call Daisy to
“Leave her girl’s flummery and make tracks for the garret stairs.”
Daisy scarcely remembered to shut Aunt Emma’s great piece-box, with its no end of remnants for dolls’ dresses, which had so captivated her.
Poor, poor little New York children, in your four-story brown stone fronts, with their flat roofs, and six feet which make a city yard! Little you know of the pleasure in a real-for-fair garret on a rainy day!
Come climb with me to the top of the funny old house on Funny street! Don’t be afraid! There are no bats to flap their dismal wings in those shadowy corners. “It is but the first step that costs.” Plunge boldly in!
What huge, strong beams for swings!
What unsuspected corners for hide-and-seek!
Those great smooth inclined planes for storing bedding are the jolliest places for sliding, second only to Winter ice-hills, and a great deal warmer and safer, too.
See those huge, broad chimneys! Your breath comes quickly as you think of what may be behind them—goblins, elves, or blackest of cats, with their green, glaring eyes, ready to spring out and chill your blood with terror.
There is all this to be said about an old garret, and yet it seems to us peopled with the ghosts of the past, the rafters still reëchoing the childish shouts of the “long, long ago,” and the very old trunks telling their musty tale of the children who had once sported here, now old men and women, with tottering step and silvery locks.
Little thought our frolicsome party of all[Pg 81] this. Drip, drip, drip, sounded the rain on the roof without, but child-life brought sunlight within, as holding tightly to Nan’s and Charlotte’s dresses, at first, they peer curiously and cautiously into all the shadowy corners, then, grown bolder, drag out from their hiding places the old trunks, dress themselves in pointed slippers, white wigs, laced bodice, ball dresses, and short clothes.
Jack rides astride an old crutch, whilst Artie, mounted on stilts, with curled wig and flying scarlet cloak, chases the screaming party into the darkest corners, or sends them climbing up the smooth shelves, where, on secure perch, they, with pillows, pelt their stilted pursuer, till his uncertain gait makes him cry out for mercy.
Charlotte and Nan may sit on high perch and gossip by the hour, for there are no disputes[Pg 82] to be settled, wounds to be bound up, or new plays to be invented. The old garret supplies merriment enough, and the dinner-hour comes too soon, and the twilight gloom, stealing in through the oval windows, finds the little party very unwillingly groping down the dark, narrow staircase on their way to nursery tea.
Aunt Emma, sitting with Papa in the Library, a little later, hears, through the key-hole, snatches of a whispered conversation, and occasionally, loud tones.
“Oh, I can’t; you are the oldest. You ought to be the one.”
“Oh, pshaw! Don’t be such a spooney; it’s girls’ business to ask favors of women, and you know if I ask they’ll be sure to think it’s a lark.”
Papa looks comically at Aunt Emma, over the top of his paper, saying—
“Some mischief is brewing. So Auntie be prepared to shake your head and look grave. But mum, I see, is the word.”
Here the door slowly opened, and Daisy appeared, looking very shy and ill at ease.
“Please, Auntie, may we have a little fun?”
“Pleasure,” was loudly whispered through the key-hole.
“Oh! I meant pleasure. Could we have a little pleasure?”
“What else have you been having all day long, I should like to know?” asked Papa.
“Yes, Papa; I know, but we want, I believe—” and Daisy, quite at loss for words, looked wistfully toward the key-hole.
“To amuse the children,” prompted Artie.
“Oh, yes, Papa! Artie and I want to amuse the children.”
“I should think Charlotte would rather be excused from having Artie’s help, but Daisy, you have our full and free permission to amuse the children to your heart’s content;” saying this, Papa very suddenly opened the door, and Artie fell in the room, headlong, whilst old Carlo, dressed in Celia’s spectacles and cap, with black shawl and white apron on, leaped over the prostrate form and sprang to his mistress’s side.
When Artie, with face very red, rose from the floor, he felt very much relieved to see Papa and Aunt Emma looking much amused at the picture Carlo presented, standing on his hind feet, as if begging to be relieved of his womanly attire.
“Papa, may we not take Carlo to the nursery, to make the children laugh?” ventured Artie.
“Yes, my boy; but the next time you have any not very pleasant duty to do, don’t put it off on your sister, and shield yourself behind the door. It doesn’t look quite manly. Indeed, to use your own, not-at-all elegant words, ‘it looks rather spooney.’ You may run along now.”
Through the open door the library party heard the creeping up stairs, the suppressed titter and the loud knock, followed by such a screaming and scampering that the Funny house on Funny street seemed to shake on its very foundations. The sound of the uproar reached Celia in the kitchen, who, armed with toasting-fork, accompanied by Hugh with the carving-knife, rushed to the rescue.
The fun lasted till Daisy, Artie, and the dog were turned out by the nurses, that the little folk might be quieted before bed-time.
“So many birds live in the tree,
We do not want for fun.”
Tuesday morning dawns brightly, and Tuesday’s sun soon dries up the gravelled garden walks and shady croquet ground of Aunt Emma’s pleasant, roomy garden, where the merry party of young folk are feasting, like the bees, tasting the various cups of pleasure which nature offers, in most tempting freshness, to little city children in their visits to the country.
The Funny house on Funny street, though almost in the centre of the city’s trade and bustle, is surrounded by a large, old-fashioned[Pg 87] garden, where still may be seen those grand floral sentinels, the gay hollyhocks and the rich golden lily, whilst their lowly companions, the larkspur, sweet pea, and marigold still grace the garden borders, disdaining the urns and hanging baskets which confine their modern sisters.
The humming-bird and the golden butterfly still hover about this festive spot, and the fattest of scarlet-vested robin gentry still sing out their siren song, “Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,” from the great cherry and old pear-trees which have escaped the woodman’s axe.
Did you ever notice, children, how pert the robins are in such old city gardens?
They seem to think they are indeed privileged guests.
Aunt Emma, sitting under the shady arbor, with its drapery of clematis and honeysuckle,[Pg 88] told the children that, one June morning, she had discovered that the robins were greedily devouring her choicest strawberries, so she told Hugh to hang a bell on a stick planted in the midst of the strawberry-bed, and fasten to it a long cord which should reach to her sitting-room window.
The next morning she laughed to herself as she heard the “Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,” of the early morning pillagers, saying—
“Ha, ha! my gay visitors. For your naughtiness you shall lose your dainty breakfast. Stealing my finest berries without so much as ‘By your leave, ma’am.’”
Presently a whole flock of birdies descended upon the bed.
“‘Tinkle, tinkle,’ sounded the bell, and then such a fluttering of wings and spreading out of scarlet vests, and away flew the frightened[Pg 89] birdies, far out of sound and sight of bells and berries.
Robin’s Nest in the Old Pear-tree. Page 89.
“I was quite satisfied with my plan,” continued Aunt Emma, “and the next morning seated myself with my work at my window.
“‘Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,’ sounded out their notes, but I fancied less boldly this time. The bell tinkled, and away flew my gay visitors, but this time they perched themselves on the old pear-tree, and chirped and twittered loudly, evidently complaining of their treatment, and studying, from their high perches, their enemy’s ground.
“I told my tale triumphantly to some of my friends, and the next morning they came to visit me and see the fun themselves.
“‘Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,’ sounded out loud and clear, and oh! what a bevy of birds had come for the morning’s visit!
“‘Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,’ sounded the bell, and would you believe it? The knowing birds turned toward the window, bobbed their saucy heads at me, and went on helping themselves with easy manners indeed.
“‘Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,’ pealed the bell, and again the saucy fellows dived and dodged, winked and blinked their little bright eyes, and nodded ‘It’s all right.’
“I was completely conquered; so now I let them take their breakfast first, and then I feast on what they leave behind. Very often I find marks of their little beaks in the ruddiest berries on my plate, but they, in return, cheer me with their fullest, choicest notes, give life and brightness to my quiet garden, and guard my young plants from the ravages of devouring insects, and attract other birds, with their richer notes, to their banqueting spot.”
“Aunt Emma,” said Artie, “do you think those little thieving fellows knew you?”
“Indeed, I flatter myself, Artie, that they consider me their best friend. There is scarcely a morning, from the time when the last snow-flakes of Winter melt away, that some one or more of these gay fellows do not come to the window-sill of my sewing-room, chirp about me, and tell a long story of joy or grievance. Sometimes I fancy it’s a complaint of some fickle Jenny Wren who has left her true love for a gay English Sparrow, and again another has won for his mate a saucy Mattie Martin, and comes to me for my best wishes and the promise of my ends of thread and bits of wool to furnish the snug little home he is going to build for his little bride, up in the branches of my apple tree.”
“And does they tell you of the poor little Cock Robin that the naughty Sparrow killed with his bow-arrow?” questioned Rosie.
“I will tell you, Pet, if you are not already tired of my stories, a tale something like your Cock Robin.”
“Oh, do, do, please, Auntie, we’d never be tired of stories;” and the children stowed themselves in a little heap on the grass, at their Auntie’s feet, leaned their elbows on their knees, and rested their chubby cheeks on their hands, ready for any given quantity of tales.
“One day,” continued Aunt Emma, “having a bad headache, I sat in the part of my room farthest from the window, to be away from the light. Presently I heard a mournful sort of song, which soon became quite pitiful, and then came a quick, sharp peck[Pg 93]ing at my window-pane. I could not resist that appeal, and as I opened my window a Robin flew quickly in, fluttered in circles over my head, uttering pitiful cries. I followed him out into the garden till, near the old apple-tree, he disappeared under a bush. Carefully putting aside, with my hands, the leaves and branches, I found a poor, tiny, half-dressed Robin baby, uttering such little, sick, feeble peeps, I seem to hear them now. I think from the twinkle I afterward used to see in his eyes, that he was rather an adventurous young spirit, and very likely his Papa was a widower, for I never saw but the one parent.
“I fancy Papa Robin had gone out that morning to do the day’s marketing, after charging the younglings to stay quietly at home, and this daring little spirit had taken[Pg 94] advantage of his absence to step out on their balcony and see the world for himself; then he must have become giddy and fallen under the rose-bush, where his Papa had found him, and not knowing what to do with his wee, wounded birdie, had flown to tell me his trouble.”
“Oh! Auntie, what did you do with the poor little thing?” cried tender-hearted Daisy.
“I made a soft cotton bed for it, in a little basket, and put it on a chair near my window, in the sun, then fed it crumbs of bread wet with wine.”
“Did it live, Auntie, dear?”
“Yes, children; and now for the wonderful part of my story. Every morning the parent bird used to make a visit, bringing in his beak to his sick birdie, a bit of caterpillar, a juicy worm, or a ripe berry. I grew very[Pg 95] fond of my pet, and that I might know it, if at some distant day it should leave me, I wound a bit of silver wire about its leg. Birdie grew stronger and saucier, and its peep fuller every day. At last one bright morning—you may imagine my surprise—on entering the little sewing-room, to find my pet gone; and as I thrust my head out of the window, a loud burst of glad song, from the top of the old apple-tree, told me that birdie was—
“Safe, safe, at home.”
“Did you ever see the bird again, Auntie?”
“One morning, weeks afterward, I was in my usual place, and suddenly a bird appeared, from whose tiny leg dangled my thread of silver wire; lower and lower he descended without uttering a note, then something dropped[Pg 96] upon the window-sill, and judge of my surprise, to find the very ruby ring I had lost in the garden some days before. I had mourned its loss, for it had been given me by your Papa’s own dear Mamma, on my tenth birthday. I had, for years, worn it on my watch-chain, and lost it whilst planting some seeds, as I supposed, in the mignonette bed. It might have been that the saucy robins had watched me, as I stowed away my seeds, winking their little eyes and bobbing their round heads as they marked their larder for the morrow. What a surprise to them, when, instead of a tiny seed, this bright jewel appeared. Some time after this, in my garden-walks, I found a few red and yellow feathers, a bird’s claw, and a bit of silver wire, which told the sad tale that my pet had been sacrificed by a strange cat.
“My story is ended. You have been patient little listeners for a full half hour, so, run away, dears, for a morning play.”
The merry children hasten off to welcome their little friend Charlie Leonard, who was coming to spend the day with them.
“How the heart of childhood dances,
Upon a sunny day!
It has its own romances,
And a wide, wild world have they!”
“Hallo! Charlie boy. Come along, here’s all kinds of fun. Shall we have blind-man’s-buff on the grass-plat, or will you play croquet with Daisy and me?”
“No, no, Charlie,” sounded Rosie’s beseeching tones, “come and help me gather mullein-leaves for dollies’ blankets, and these cunning pot-cheeses to play store with. See, Celia has lent her for-true scales. Only look! and Hugh has given us four cents and two ginger-snaps that weigh a pound.”
“I want Charlie to come help me chase those darling little yellow butterflies that’s ‘gathering honey from the opening flower’ to make butter of,” screamed Jack.
“Oh, Artie, just listen to that child,” said Daisy. “His mind is all askew. He’s talking about making butter of honey.”
“I guess the little chap remembers how the buckwheat cakes and honey made the butterfly last winter,” replied the Keeper, as he gave a most satisfactory send through the second wicket.
“Will you just listen to that, Charlotte?” said Nan, who, under the old pear-tree’s shade, was helping take out grass-stains from the dainty city linen.
“I tell you I never did see such sense in children in my born days. Just you wait till I run and tell Hugh and my mother ’fore it slips.”
Nan found ready listeners in the kitchen, for old Celia laid aside her soap and sand—Hugh ceased his psalm-singing, with knife-scraping accompaniment, and stood with knife and cork in either hand, and mouth and eyes opened wide to take in the “uncommon sense of Mister John’s wonderful children.”
“Well, now! only look at that, will ye?”
“Only jest to hear, if that ain’t Mister John his werry self—Oh, my! It appears to me, Nan, them childerns will be the werry death of me yet. What with peerin’ and listenin’ and laughin’, my work’s all in the drags. The werry pots and kettles seem just turnin’ into boys and girls. Oh, my! Oh, my! I say, you Nan, just go long, and if you come this yer way tellin’ any more about them childerns’ perform, I’ll harpoon you with the toasting fork,—so off with you.”
Nan hurried back to the grass-stains, only looking once over her shoulder to find her mother and Hugh “peerin’” stealthily from behind the porch, to catch, if possible, a few more crumbs from the children’s table; but, dutiful daughter as she was, she didn’t look again, but wider and wider stretched her mouth, brighter shone its ivory gems, and louder sounded out her clear, rich notes, while she sang—
“Carry me back to old Virginny,
To old Virginny’s shore,”
as she renewed her zeal in the cause of grass-stain cleaning, which was just now bringing wrinkles to Charlotte’s anxious brow, which was ever like a page in a school-mistress’s report-book. There were wrinkles small, which meant grass-stains, bumps, rents, and childish disputes; there were wrinkles many, which told[Pg 102] of mischief wrought; but these were soon dispelled. There were deeper ones which told of graver faults,—disobedience or falsehood, and others like them, which days of anxious watching and fears of future ills had left, which could be effaced only by His hand who can truly—
“Smooth the troubled brow,
And drive away our fears.”
Little Bear, in the meantime, was finding pleasant pastime in making larkspur wreaths and dandelion curls for his little sister’s “store,” whilst he kept an eye on Artie’s successful game, only wishing—
“It might have been,
His favorite Daisy’s lot to win,”
and pitying her, as her brother sent her balls flying to remotest parts of the garden, to be hunted out from behind currant and gooseberry bushes’ thick shade.
It was a great pleasure to this little feeble city boy, with the love of the beautiful in Nature, which so often accompanies weakness of limb, to lie back on the cushions spread by his careful nurses under the old apple-tree’s shade, and drink in all the beauties of the scene.
Like a picture-gallery seemed the quaint garden, as, looking upward, between the opening in the leafy roof above, he caught glimpses of the blue sky, and his eye followed the islets of fleecy clouds in their fleeting passage. The thick, grassy carpet at his feet brought out, in all their brightness, the colors of the golden lily and the many-tinted ladyslippers which formed borders to the broad grass-plots. Butterflies, golden and russet-brown, were flitting all around him, whilst robins and bluebirds, from their air-swung perches, sang sweetly their morning hymns, and from the earth be[Pg 104]neath, locusts and tiny crickets joined the glad chorus.
How true it is that our Father in Heaven has given a voice to every thing in Nature to praise and tell of His great Love! Can you wonder that this little feeble child, unable to join in the careless play of the merry group, taught by a Christian mother that God was all about and around him, should seem to hear His voice speaking in the beauty of the scene, and gently folding his thin, white hands, should sing, in low, sweet notes, the Morning Hymn?
“Now the dreary night is done,
Comes again the glorious Sun:
Crimson clouds and silver-white,
Wait upon his breaking light.
“Glistening in their garden beds,
Flowers lift up their dewy heads,
And the shrill cock claps his wings,
And the merry lark upsprings.
“Child of Mary! Thou dost know
What of danger, joy, or woe
Shall to-day my portion be,
Let me meet it all in Thee.
“Fretful feeling, passion, pride,
Never did with Thee abide:
Make me watch myself to-day,
That they lead me not astray.”
Lulled by the soft music of his own notes, little Bear closes his heavy eyelids; the crickets lend their aid to sing his lullaby, while soft zephyrs whisper in his ears themes for sweetest, purest dreams.
Daisy’s watchful ear missed the murmured song, and her quick eye saw the little sleeper under his leafy canopy,—so she slips away from the merry game of blind-man’s-buff, which had taken the place of croquet, and hastes to mount guard over her precious charge, and wage war against the persistent flies, whose[Pg 106] chief delight seems to be tickling the faces of summer sleepers.
Pretty soon Jack appears with rather a rueful face, for the merry game of blind-man’s-buff has ended in his and Charlie’s tumbling headlong over one of the garden-seats, in their haste to get away from the blind man, and poor Jack’s head has made the acquaintance of a stone which has proved anything but soft.
A Grave Ending to a Gay Game. Page 106.
Daisy could not find it in her heart to laugh at the funny little picture her wounded brother presented. His sailor straw hat had come to grief in the fall, and from between the parted straws, hung out tufts of fair, tangled hair, buttons had flown away, and a wide crack, in the seat of his short pants, revealed a hanging of gauze drapery; but oh, the face! It was a kind of Mosaic pattern of grass, fruit, and dust-stains, all blended together by the few tears[Pg 107] which would run down in spite of the efforts of the little dusty hand to keep them back.
Jack’s sobs ceased as he caught sight of his sleeping brother, and thoughts of aching head and scratched knees, left him, as a childish fancy sprang to his mind.
“Oh, Daisy, isn’t he just like babes in the woods? Childerns, let’s ’spose we cover him up with leaves.”
Rosie and Charlie think it would be “lovely,” and off they scamper to gather leaves and flowers, whilst Sister Daisy drops them over the sleeping child, and weaves a little wreath to rest on his pale brow, and Rosie runs to the kitchen to ask Celia and Hugh to come to see “The butifullest picture that ever was,” and wonders why Hugh turns quickly back, and Celia’s apron finds tears in the kindly eyes as she murmurs out her—
“Blessings on the angel boy,”
then sobs aloud as Charley Leonard whispers, “But Celia, don’t you know angels have wings?”
To the merry children, the picture of their sleeping brother, on the flower-decked couch, has only beauty and brightness, as they check their merry tones and gather around in silent admiration.
Presently Artie whispers:
“Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to spread out a little feast by his side, so when he wakes up he may think the Fairies have truly visited him? I say, Daisy Duck, let’s do it.”
“It’s just the very thing. Oh, Artie boy! however could you have thought of such a nice idea?”
A rustic table was soon made of a box nicely covered with a snow-white towel. Then[Pg 109] each child brought a contribution of currants, gooseberries, or strawberries, for which Daisy made pretty, leafy baskets, then ran to beg good Delia for a very little white sugar, for Fairies liked their berries powdered nicely.
What a surprise for Daisy!
Out of the grim oven’s mouth, that same Celia was drawing a pan of the weest cookies, dainty enough for any fairy cook-shop, with the “lovely bit of citron on top” to take away the plainness and look like a real tea-party dish.
Daisy couldn’t speak for very joy, as Celia stowed the inviting morsels on a plate hidden by grape leaves, and filled a glass with powdered sugar for “fairy snow,” while Hugh, who had disappeared a few moments before, suddenly stood before the delighted child with a package of fresh barley sticks[Pg 110] and a paper of peppermint hearts, which he said, in his judgment,—
“Wouldn’t hurt nobody nohow, and was just a set-off ’gainst that sour fruit.”
Then Hugh took pity on Daisy, as the little maid stood “embarrassed by her riches,” and offered to carry out the cakes, following soon after with a little salver bearing a pitcher of golden milk and six tiny glasses.
The excitement was now intense. Poor Jack, ignorant of the view in his rear, attempted his heels-over-head antics, but was prudently pinioned by the Keeper. Daisy holds tight hold of Charlie Leonard, whilst Rosie ran and kissed the skirt of Hugh’s linen coat to relieve herself of some of her pent-up feeling.
Then came the trying time. The fairies were all ready, but the little guest still slept.[Pg 111] The gentle zephyrs were teasing the leafy decorations to fly away and sport with them. The summer flies seemed to think the Fairy elves had placed the golden milk for their refreshment, and who could guard the feast? The waking guest must see no trace of human form, so the children have hidden behind the tall lilac’s leafy screen.
The Children Hide Behind the Lilac Bush. Page 111.
Was there ever such a five minutes?
Was there ever such a sleeper?
Jack, knowing his own weakness, is cramming his mouth with grass-tufts; Rosie has clapped both hands over hers to keep back the ringing laugh.
What a little picture! The merriment oozes out of the corners of the pent-up mouth, dances in the bright blue eyes, shimmers in the shaking golden curls, and quivers in the chubby shoulders.
Charlie Leonard is repeating
“Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard,”
the only feather from his worn-out Mother Goose which “sticks” in his memory, and poor Artie, yielding to the temptations of the idle hour, is just about to tickle the sleeper’s nostrils with a grassy “horsetail,” when the Family Owl, who sees by day as well as by night, spies out his sly intent in time to check the roguish act.
Perhaps it was the good-natured little “scuffle” which ensued, or perhaps the sportive zephyrs were too loudly coaxing the leafy covers, or perhaps the greedy flies might have followed Artie’s bad example, and having no good elder sister-fly to call them off, might have tickled the little quivering nostrils, and made a play-ground of the fair, dewy brow; whichever or whatever the cause,[Pg 113] we cannot tell. Elf-land secrets are not written on printed page, and we have no time to seek them from tiny flower petals, murmuring brooklets, or transparent dewdrops.
Slowly, but surely, Bear at last came out of Dreamland, to the children’s great delight, and, oh, how they enjoyed his bewilderment, the questioning look, the pleasure his face showed as, little by little, the true state of things dawned upon his waking mind, as the little Fairies took the forms of loving brothers, sisters, and friend!
How he laughed out as he caught sight of Rosie’s pink skirt shining among the green branches of the old lilac bush! The little human fairies joined hands and danced a wild, elfin dance around the tardy guest, then seated themselves to enjoy with him the fairy feast.
“And when they next do go abroad,
May I be there to see.”
It is four o’clock, and a lively scene is taking place before the Funny house on Funny street. The roomy carriage, drawn up before the door, is being packed by Papa, whilst Hugh stands at his horses’ heads, whispering lessons of patience.
A nurse, a coachman, four boys, two girls, three dolls, a bundle of wraps, and a large basket! Who ever saw such a load for a pleasure drive? What would Fifth avenue think of such a turn out? Why, the very carriage-sides creak out their remonstrance,[Pg 115] and Jerry horse whispers to Fash, “to turn his head, and did he ever see the like?” and Fashion answers “Neigh.”
Hugh gathers up his reins and seizes his whip, whilst Papa helps Aunt Emma into a light carriage waiting near.
At the door stands Celia, watching to see that no stray foot finds its way into the depths of that basket, whose contents none knew better than she, whilst Nan looks wistfully on.
Suddenly Papa calls out:
“Nan, could you put on your bonnet in three seconds, and stow yourself in the cracks between the Monkeys?” then turning to his companion, says,—
“Beg pardon, Auntie, for interfering with your servants, but, really, I could not withstand the wistful looks in the face of my dark old playmate.”
“It is just what I was wishing, John, but I confess I couldn’t see the possible crack.”
“Nor I, Auntie; but I have full faith in the old saying, ‘There’s always room for one more,’ and Nan will be sure to find it.”
How ever that Nan got up to her attic nest, donned her best sack and bonnet, and was out in that carriage before Papa’s watch told the third second past,
“Nor you, nor I, nor nobody’ll know;”
perhaps the old creaking garret stairs had a slight idea, but they will be sure to keep dark.
Then the reins were fairly tightened. Hugh’s long lash made a great circle in the air, ending in a terrific crack, and off started the merry, noisy party. Surely such a load did never coach convey since the ride of
“My sister and my sister’s child,
Myself and children three,”
when the coach was a chaise and Gilpin John, on frantic steed, vainly tried to follow.
My young reader, do you know anything about the Providence hill-side streets?
If you do, you will not wonder that Bear winced, Charlotte “oh, oh’d,” the Monkeys screamed, and Artie’s “Pshaw! don’t be foolish,” from the coachman’s box, had a little bit of a quaver in it.
Poor old Roger Williams! your weary spirit is at rest! There’s no more up-hill work for you, but in the steep hill-sides your descendants must daily climb, they may find fitting emblem of your life-work here below.
It was a great relief to Charlotte and her bairns, to see the horses’ heads turned into the pleasant, level Prospect street, with its veteran[Pg 118] college buildings, so severely respectable and yet so very shabby, which arrested Artie’s attention, and prompted him to call out:
“Papa, what sort of a manufactory is this one on our right?”
“For making brains, my boy.”
“But where, sir, is the engine kept?”
Papa points with his whip toward a pretty house on the corner.
“But I see no smoke.”
“No, my son; during the Summer months the steam-engine and the firemen rest.”
The trembling of the coachman’s box causes Artie to look up at his companion’s face, and there learns from the glittering ivories that he is a victim to one of Papa’s jokes.
Now it is a very curious fact, that young folk, yea, and old folk too, who are very fond of “quizzing” others, seldom like the ball re[Pg 119]turned; and so Master Artie refrained from further questions, and cast a stealthy glance behind to see if
“That little Leonard chap knew he had been quizzed;” but the little “chap” is busy whispering to the Monkeys:
“I do believe Aunt Emma is going to surprise us all by a visit to the old Brown Farm, with its cows, and pigs, and chickens, and old Poll the Parrot, and the kind Grandma that gives children berries and milk out under a big, big tree. Now be sure,” he adds, “you are surprised, ’cause if you are not, Aunt Emma will be disappointed, and, after all, Jack, you needn’t say ‘Goody, goody,’ for like as not I don’t know anything about it, and we are going to the Asylum, or somewhere another.”
“Charlie, if we do go to the Brown Farm, will we be sure to see Silly-chick and the old[Pg 120] Portulak that bit off the little Singing Bird’s head, ’cause it didn’t know manners?”
“Daisy, what is the little fellow talking about? He speaks so fast I can’t know what he means.”
“Why, he thinks, Charlie, that everything in Artie’s Wonder Book is true and for fair, like you believe your Mother Goose.”
“Oh, but Daisy, Mother Goose is real for fair. I have seen her at a party, and the very ‘old woman that lived in her shoe and had the many children;’ there they were, sure enough, Daisy, for one of them, who was peeping out of the bursted toe of the shoe, was eating bread and butter, and winked his eye at me, and another little fellow sneezed and seemed to have a dreadful cold in his head. What was that but sure-enough-alive, I should like to know?”
“But, Charlie,” Daisy reasoned, “don’t you know that was a tableau-party, and they were playing ‘The Old Woman in her Shoe?’”
“Well, perhaps it was; only I believe Mother Goose was real-for-fair. Why, Daisy, don’t you know Auntie’s picture of your father that hangs in the dining-room? Well, isn’t he sure-enough-alive, I should like to know?”
“Oh, but Charlie,” remonstrated little Jack, “you ought to believe my sister Daisy. Papa says it isn’t nice manners to conterdict a lady, and ’sides that, my Daisy ought to know, for she studies French and definitions.”
Where this hot little dispute would have ended, is not very clear, for Charlie was always loath to be convinced against his will, and the Owl had no idea of having her su[Pg 122]perior wisdom questioned by a youngling, but just then a sudden jolt, as the carriage-wheel passed over a stone, caused a scream of fright from the little Monkeys, and Mother Goose, Singing Bird, and ugly Portulak, were all forgotten as the young city folk gazed admiringly at the country landscape before them.
A few moments before, they had seen blocks of houses, and pretty villas, with their well-kept lawns, bright with midsummer glories, whilst pillars of cloudy smoke loomed up from the many manufactories in the distance.
Now they are travelling at quick pace along the smoothest of roads. Meadows of deepest green, gemmed with gay dandelions and wild daisies, with a background of woodland, are hemmed in by old fences, whose defects are changed to beauties by the Eg[Pg 123]lantine and Grape-vines which cling about them.
Behind these draped old fences graze gay goats, ungainly young colts, with their bright eyes and long stilty legs; and little calves, with their sweet “June breath” and shaggy coats, who spring up to greet the travellers, and follow them to the full extent of their tether.
Hugh’s gentle horses drink in refreshment from the pure country air, whose perfumes whisper to them of abundant pastures and well-filled barns, while their pricked ears and quivering nostrils give promise of a breezy pace, very different from their languid walk through the heated city streets.
A few moments later, and the merry party near that bit of woody road, the joy and pride of every true Nature-loving inhabitant of Providence.
Do you know it, young reader? No? Well, then, there’s room for one more, for omnibuses, and Narragansett Bay excursion boats have clearly proved to the public that “two or more bodies can occupy the same space at the same time,” whatever your Natural Philosophy may have to say to the contrary; so jump into the old carriage, and by force of imagination, stow yourself away in one of the “cracks.”
We are just turning an unexpected corner, and now we find ourselves suddenly transported from the unshaded road, into a long woody aisle where the interlacing branches of the trees on either side form a high leafy arch, through which, only rarely, you can gain a peep at the sky above.
The busy world is all shut out here. There is nothing to tell of ceaseless labor and sordid gain. Only Nature’s voice speaks.
The damp, cool air, the woody smell; the rustling of branches, the quivering of leaves, the trickling of the little rills in the distance, the noiseless flitter of the yellow butterfly, the katydid’s ceaseless chatter, and the broad, cool surfaces of the glorious ferns, reflecting the rare bits of sunlight which pierce through the dense arch above, all contribute to the delicious feeling of repose and refreshment which steal over languid city folk, tarrying in this grateful shade.
This woody aisle reëchoes many times a day with the prattle of childhood and the silvery laugh of light-hearted youth; but, ah! there is rarely a day that it does not reëcho, too, the heavy tread of funeral coach and the mourners’ quivering sob, as through the sweet quiet of this woodland road, they bear their dearly loved to the “City of the Dead,” that lies just beyond.
Sometimes it seems as if this quiet woody road must whisper words of soothing to those aching hearts, and that the glimpses, they sometimes catch, of a bright sun behind the leafy screen, must bring, to faithful hearts, thoughts of “the Sun of Righteousness with healing in its beams,” which, ere long, will in mercy dispel the mists of sadness and shine into their aching hearts.
The little spot of light, so scarcely seen, at the far-away end of the leafy corridor, grows wider with each advancing rod, and soon, with a shout of joy, the spell-bound children hail the blue sky and the smooth, light road before them.
Another turn in the road, and Charlie Leonard cries out—
“Oh, I smell my fun, I smell my fun! Hoorah! Hoorah! Oh, thank you, Miss kind Aunt Emma!”
Swinging Under the Old Elm. Page 127.
Such a hurrahing, hat-waving, and hand-clapping as went up from that Menagerie van, as the hospitable old gates swung out their giant arms to welcome the noisy party to the “old Brown Farm,” Papa’s young Paradise,—the theme of many a thrice-told nursery tale.
The horses, too, “smell their fun,” as they plunge through the open gateway, and, halting under an elm-tree’s shade, bend their glistening necks to seek the sweet morsels at their feet.
Papa looks almost a “boy again,” as with bright, glistening eyes he unpacks and deposits on the soft turf the “two girls, two nurses, three boys, and two dolls.”
Just one minute to straighten out the cramped limbs, one minute of oh! oh! ohing at the gigantic size and wonderful beauty of “the Old Elm” of the “old, old story,” and then[Pg 128] Charlie Leonard, whose frequent visits here with Aunt Emma, in her quest of cream and butter, have made him quite at home, gives the marching order, and away fly the “two girls and three boys,” with nurses in the rear, first to the old well, for a drink from the very same
their Papa had so often uplifted in the days of his boyish thirst,—then for a few high swings to explore the elm’s upper stories,—and then another flutter, and away they all flew, like a flock of chattering magpies, to find out for themselves the beauties and pleasures of the
“Old Brown Farm.”
“A sunshiny world, full of laughter and pleasure.”
“Oh, Auntie dear, isn’t this most like Heaven,” breaks out little Bear, lying by his Auntie’s side, on soft cushions, under the great Elm’s leafy canopy, drinking in the soft country air, laden with the sweet perfume it steals from the meadows and woodlands it journeys through, whilst his blue eyes glisten with delight at the prospect before him.
The softest of blue skies was varied by piled-up masses of fleecy clouds; fields of young corn waved their shining green leaves in answer to the balmy zephyr’s greeting,[Pg 130] whilst in the distant meadows hay-makers tossed about their light load to the music of the mower’s wheels.
At the right stood the quaint old farm-house, with its festoons of trumpet and honeysuckle vine, and its gay setting of lady-slippers and marigold, interspersed with the housewifely marjoram and balsam.
Papa, standing on the old porch, waiting for an answer to the huge lion’s paw, which serves as knocker, sees with pleasure the same old grindstone he used so proudly to turn in his childhood,—the long tell-tale array of shining milk-pans hung upon the picket-fence, looking quite the same, but Juba, the sportive companion of those boyish days, lies basking in the sun, snapping maliciously at the teasing flies and eying the visitor with suspicious glance.
“Juba, old fellow, have you forgotten me?[Pg 131] Can’t you give an old playfellow a better welcome than this?”
Was it something in the ring of the manly voice which sounded familiar to the old dog’s ears, or was it the hospitality and courtesy of a well-bred old family servant that led Juba, once so frolicsome and lithe, slowly to rear up his heavy, rheumatic body, and languidly crawl along to reply to the friendly salutation?
“Juba, poor old fellow,” said papa, kindly patting the dog’s head, “are you and I indeed so old? Come, good doggie, and see my little boy. Don’t be afraid, darling, this is the very same Juba that pulled your papa out of the duck-pond yonder, where he had fallen in, whilst ‘paddling his own canoe.’”
The stiff old doggie responded kindly to Bear’s caresses, and to the child’s great delight, immediately crouched at his side, whilst papa,[Pg 132] discouraged by his efforts with the old knocker, which never before had failed to procure for him a warm welcome, sat down by his side.
“Papa, will you please tell me again about the tree?”
“Yes, my son. It is more than a hundred years old, and was planted, when a little sapling, by one of the old inhabitants who gave to the farm its name. There is the date, on the old board fastened on the body of the tree. You see how those grand old branches touch the ground on all sides?
“This tree casts a shadow of one hundred feet. What stories, Auntie, it could tell of those who have sported under its shade, now old men and women! The young lovers of old now bring their children and grandchildren to feast here on the fruits, which to them have lost their sweetness. How many times those huge old furni[Pg 133]ture wagons have halted here, and deposited their burden of merry boys and girls for their yearly “school feast of berries and cream!”
“Papa, are there any more such trees in the world so large as this elm?”
“Oh! yes, my son, even very near Providence, in a little village called Johnston, there is one much larger; indeed, I think it is the largest in the country. A small house could be placed in the body very easily. Then, in California, I have seen cedar trees, whose trunks were so enormous that they were used as dancing halls. Fancy, Harry, how it must seem to be dancing to merry music in a huge room within a tree! There is one tree which has a world-wide reputation—the English have named it Wellingtonia—after your favorite Duke, but we Americans claim for it the name of Washingtonia. The Californians are justly proud of this old patriarch,[Pg 134] and well they may be. Think of its being high as Trinity steeple, and a thousand years old!”
“But, Papa, how can anybody tell how old a tree is?—there are no people a thousand years old to tell when it was planted.”
“No, dear boy, but God tells us in this way. Have you never noticed in a piece of wood—but here is one just at hand. Do you see those different rings?”
“Well, Harry, each of those rings show the growth of the tree during one year; for each year a new ring or layer of wood and a ring of bark is formed.”
“But, papa, I only see one bark!”
“Yes, my boy, as the new wood and bark is formed the old bark is pushed further out to make room for the ring, and soon the old bark sheds its coat; that is, part of its skin drops off.”
Papa’s tree talk was just then interrupted by a merry shout from the hay-field, and poor Bear looked up so wistfully, yet patiently, in his father’s face, that he said,—
“Dear boy, you would so like to join them. It seems cruel to keep you here.”
“Oh! no, Papa, I don’t so much mind. It’s so sweet and beautiful here, and the wind blows so soft on my forehead, it seems as if it was God’s breath. No, I really don’t mind much, and sister Daisy will tell me all about it. Oh, Papa, you don’t know about Daisy! Every night, after I go to bed, she comes and sits by my side till I am asleep, so I won’t miss Mamma, and she smooths my hair and says softly in my ear, ‘Daisy’s own little comfort,’ and then, somehow, my back doesn’t seem to ache, and I go straight to sleep, and just to think of it, she hasn’t said ‘I told you so,’ not one single time! Oh, Papa![Pg 136] our Daisy is so kindly affectioned one to another. Why, there’s Hugh hurrying back from the field. What can the matter be?”
“Mr. John, can I speak a moment alone with you?”
“Well, sir, Nan is going on like she was mad, to have Master Harry down yon in the hay-field with the children. Cried like a baby she did, one spell, to think the poor little fellow was missing such fun, and that set the children off, and they’ve give me no peace till I said ‘I’d see what could be done,’ and then Farmer Brown came along and says he—
“‘Did you say, Hugh Crummell, those youngsters belonged to Mr. Havens? You can’t mean our master, John Havens?’
“‘The very same,’ says I. ‘Came on last Saturday from New York.’
“‘Now I want to know,’ says he. ‘I can’t leave my team, and my folk have gone to town for a few notions ’gainst the Fourth, but they’ll be along shortly; now if you’ll just go to the further barn you’ll find Old Meg, the lightest steppin’, gentlest old mare ever you laid eyes on. We set great store by our old Meg, we do, wife and me. Do you mind, Hugh, now him that’s gone, and Meg, was like colts together. Ah! ah! ah! Well, just take the old creeter, and put the little sick youngling on the saddle, and I give you my word for it, old Meg has that sense she’ll steer clear off from every stone to spare jolting the bairnie, and if you’d just say to Master John as I ain’t able to leave my team, but if he wouldn’t mind stepping across here, I’d gin him the heartiest grip these old horny hands could wring out, and[Pg 138] show him as pretty a piece of meadow-land as he’ll see this side of York State; and Hugh,’ he called out, ‘bear my manners to Miss Emma, and tell her our folks will never forgive, if I don’t prevail on her to stay and take a dish of tea with us, and say I should admire to have her look at us down here.’”
“That’s a capital idea of good Farmer Brown’s, Hugh, so trot out old Meg, and my patient little boy shall ride off in fine style, and visit all the old farm’s nooks and corners.”
Little Bear could scarcely believe his own eyes when Hugh appeared, leading with great delight the dapple-flanked, mild-eyed old Meg, the farmer’s pride; and when he learned that on the gentle horse’s back, with Papa and Hugh on either side, he was to make the tour of the old Brown Farm, and visit his sisters[Pg 139] and brothers in the hay-field, his cup of happiness was brimming. Dear little fellow! Big tears of joy stood in his eyes and rolled down his thin cheeks, now flushed with pleasure, as proudly gathering up the reins he bent over and whispered to his father,—
“Oh, if only dear Mamma could see me now! But you’ll write it all to her, Papa, won’t you?”
Papa assented, and off started the party; and very difficult would it have been to have told which of the three was the happiest.
Meg’s careful pace was directed first to the hay-field, where the little cavalier was met with a glad, noisy welcome from the young haymakers, and Meg’s smooth sides patted gently for her kind office, then the sport began; and little Bear almost tumbled off his steed’s back with laughter, to see the Monkeys[Pg 140] slowly rising from under the huge pile of hay Artie and Charlie had thrown upon them. Like young porcupines they looked, with the straws sticking upon them in all directions, and such heads of hair! Poor, poor Charlotte, what work for you in the next toilette!
Then Papa headed the procession and introduced them, one by one, to old Farmer Brown, and the old man wrung Master John’s hand, and laughed till the tears would come, and then the old red-stained handkerchief must.
The orchards next must be visited, the old Rhode Island greening, from whose branches Papa fell and broke his arm, when climbing up to count the eggs in a Bluebird’s nest; the old russet where his initials were plainly to be seen; the pear-trees laden with fruit, which as young saplings he had planted.
Then came the very same old duck-pond, but those ducks had gone
“Where all good ducks go,”
and a most ill-bred set of fowls had taken possession, who quacked and shook their wet feathers in the children’s faces, in a most offensive manner, and fairly drove them away.
Then came the poultry-yards, where the country geese hissed at the city goslings, and the turkey-cocks gobbled out their doubtful welcome, and the hens clucked the impolite notice that it was time for younglings to go to roost.
The barnyard was lively enough, for it was nearly six, and the milkmaids, with their shining buckets, are drawing streams of milk from the patient, mild-eyed cows. Sorry am I to[Pg 142] say that a sad thing occurred here, for Artie was tempted to tickle, with a long straw, the quivering nostrils of Brindle, who, supposing the milkpail had something to do with the affront, gave a sudden kick, which threw over milkmaid, stool, and half-filled bucket. Artie turned whiter than the milk itself, when he saw the mischief he had done, and flushed again as he met Papa’s serious gaze. How different the Brown Farm looked through the misty eyes as Papa began:
“I am ashamed of you, my son. Instantly pick up that pail and apologize for your unpardonable mischief. I repeat that I am ashamed of you.”
It was rather hard for the Keeper to ask the milkmaid’s pardon before Charlie Leonard and his young brothers and sisters, but Papa’s will was law, and besides, the boy[Pg 143] was already heartily ashamed of himself, and distressed at the trouble he had caused, so he made his apology in so earnest a manner that the tender heart of the milkmaid was touched, and she heartily forgave him, and assured him, with Irish warmth,—
“That he was a rale little jintleman, and ’twas Brindle as ought to ax the pardon, as had been tached kicking was not genteel for his likes.”
Aunt Emma remained sitting under the “Elm,” for she had caught a glimpse of the old Brown carryall coming up the road, and wanted to prepare Mrs. Brown for the surprise which awaited her.
The carryall stopped at the side-door of the carriage, and Mrs. Brown and Norah, her “help,” descended, and proceeded to unpack their city purchases; then, as Norah[Pg 144] led off the horse to the barn, the good farmer’s wife, for the first time, discovered Aunt Emma coming to meet her.
The kindly round face, with its crown of silver locks, grew radiant with delight, as, with both hands extended, she hasted to greet her guest.
“Well, now, I want to know! However did you get here, Miss Emma, and not a living soul to meet you and say a word of welcome? Please just step into my cool parlor, and I’ll have a cup of tea and a bit of somewhat to refresh you.”
“Certainly I will go in; but, my good Mrs. Brown, you must hear my story first. My nephew and his four children are with me for a week, and John’s heart was set on showing his young folk ‘the old Brown Farm’ and his good friends, and I thought it would be[Pg 145] a novelty to those city children to have an out-of-door tea under these trees. Now, stop, Mrs. Brown, I know what you want to say, but you must only give us a pitcher of your rich milk and a pot of tea, for Celia has packed a basket. I have brought the two women who will wait on us, so you and your husband must take tea with us. Here come Nan and Charlotte to set the table.”
“Well, really Miss Emma, I shall admire to join you, and so will father, but you must let me bring out a pan of my molasses cake that Master John was so fond of, dear boy! I can see him now. He’d never ask for a thing, not he, but when he put his head of a Saturday in at my kitchen door, I could seem to read ‘molasses cake’ in the twinkle of his eyes, and it was our joke,—his and mine,—I would say ‘Johnnie boy, could you worry down a bit of my molasses cake?’
“‘I’ll try, Ma’am,’ he would answer so dutiful like, ‘and if I can’t, I’ll hide it where no human eye can see it.’
“My poor Father, him that’s sleepin’ now in yonder buryin’ ground, he’d be a sittin’ behind the door, for fear of the draught, and he’d be took with such a fit of coughin’. Don’t you see, Miss Emma, he was one of them good Puritans, and it’s part of their religion, bless their dear souls, not to laugh at jokes, and so they take to coughin’? But I’ll just stop my gossip and put on my best sewin’ meetin’ cap with bright ribands. These gray old locks, mayhap, might give Mr. John a sort of far-away feelin’, for you know, Miss Emma, before my great sorrow came, years agone, there was ne’er a white hair on my head. He’d a been just two years older than Mr. John, and maybe his own bairnies would have been sportin’[Pg 147] round the farm cheerin’ the old folks’ hearts. Ah! well-a-day! We’ve had our cup of joys, and now ’tis fittin’ we should be helpin’ put the cup brimmin’ to the young folks’ lips. I won’t be gone a second, Ma’am.”
“Wee folk, old folk,
Aunt Emma and good Mrs. Brown sat in the cool cottage parlor talking, when, suddenly, the door was thrown hurriedly open, and the two little boys dashed in, whilst Roly-poly Rosy followed near.
The three flushed, young faces, with their coronet of hay straws, looked as if they had something very startling to tell, but their poor little breaths had to be recovered first. Then came—
“Oh, dear! oh, dear! Aunt Emma.”
“Mrs.—eh,—eh,—Brown—eh,—eh,—in a minute I’ll get my breath.”
Waiting for a Pinch of Salt. Page 149.
“Miss, good Miss Brown, I—I—I mean Artie, Daisy and ——”
“Wait a moment, dearies,” interrupted the kind farmer’s wife, feeling relieved from her fears that Artie had fallen into the duck-pond or Daisy from the hay-mow, “you’ve run all the little breaths out of your pipes. Just rest yourselves, and then tell your Auntie and me.”
“Can’t wait, Ma’am, we’re losing time,” said Charlie.
“Oh, good Mr. Brown’s wife, won’t you please to give me, I mean Artie and my sister Daisy, a peck of salt?”
“No, Jack, ’tis a pinch of salt to put on the horse’s,—oh, dear! I mean”—and Rosie stopped.
“She means Artie’s and Daisy’s birds’ tails they are catching; that is, they are going to, when they get the salt.”
“Yes, yes, Pets, I understand,” and in less time than it takes me to tell it, the children were off, with generous “pinches” of salt, on the way to a large tree in the next meadow, where Artie and Daisy were guarding a little song sparrow.
The pinches must have fallen a little short of the tail, or else the wary song sparrow had another engagement, and couldn’t wait, for when the breathless little messengers returned, they found the state of things quite changed, for the sparrow on his airy perch, on a neighboring tree-top, was pouring out a defiant little song, and the elder brother and sister quite out of sight. The little Salt Hunters agreed,—
“Best thing to do was just to pile up the pinches under this plantain leaf, and maybe the birds’ tails will get in ’out their[Pg 151] knowing it, and they’ll be just catched same as Artie and Daisy would have done, if they had did it.”
Daisy just now approaches, with an anxious face, and a sad tale she has to tell,—
“Artie had come across a French boy, who could not speak any American words but bad ones, whose father was dressed in dirty shirt-sleeves and no stockings, hoeing corn, and the French boy had a long branch, and he said he was going to de duck-pond for thrash it to scare de bull frogs.”
Artie had immediately seized the idea, and a long stick, too, and said he would indeed go in for such a “jolly lark,” and when the little Frenchman had explained that after the poor bull-frogs had been driven, from very fright, out upon the duck-pond’s banks, they were to have their “back legs” chopped[Pg 152] off at the wood-pile to make a savory supper for the young Frenchman and his “dirty shirt-sleeved” Father; then Daisy hesitated no longer to warn Artie against such shameful, cruel sport. Master Artie had naughtily retorted,—
“He should do as he liked, and not be tied to a girl’s apron-string,”—which was insulting, indeed, as Daisy’s dress was made with a Polonaise, and aprons, she had long laid aside. Now, Daisy was hurrying on to Charlotte, and trying not to hear some odious words, the soft breezes were wafting across that sweet meadow from a young rebel’s mouth, words which sounded very much, I am sorry to say, like—
“Tell-tale, tell-tale; hurry home before your shoes wear out.”
The welcome sound of a loud bugle’s[Pg 153] clear notes, which told of a waiting supper, rescued Artie from the Tempter’s snare, saved the duck-pond its “thrashing,” and the poor little bull-frogs their back legs. The young rebel runs off his ill-humor, and overtaking his little sister-monitor, links his arm in hers, and hurries with her to the old farm-house porch. Clean towels and spring water brought to light a group of merry young faces, around the table, spread under the old Elm, whilst Papa, and the good Farmer and his Wife, look “happy as happy can be.”
Bear says, “It is a funny dining-room, it is papered with blue, and got a green carpet on, and live crickets to put our feet on.”
Then the wee folk clapped their hands loudly. Mrs. Brown looked admiringly toward[Pg 154] Aunt Emma, and Farmer Brown “thought he should have died,” but did not, or he would have lost many a little joke from the younger folk, and some so big from Papa, that even solemn Hugh was obliged to lean against the tree to hold himself together, whilst the tea-cups he carried on a waiter rattled out faint applause. There was something besides joking to be done, for Celia had provided for country appetites, and some Fairy’s wand had changed Mrs. Brown’s promised “molasses cake and milk” into glass bowls of strawberries, with creamy cottage cheese, and blocks of currant cake.
“A dainty feast enough, I ween,
To set before a King or Queen.”
Whereabouts those little folk stowed away “such a many” plates of cream and berries, and yet found room for ham, biscuit, and cake,[Pg 155] is beyond my ken; nor do I know how long that feast would have continued, had not a sudden explosion taken place, and one of Jack’s waist-buttons flew over into Papa’s cup, which frightened Mr. Havens so much that he sprang like a squirrel up into the tree above; and soon after down upon the children, table, ground, Mrs. Brown’s cap, and Hugh’s shining bald head, came a most startling shower of torpedoes. That was a signal indeed, and away flew the screaming magpies across the meadow to take another look at the sty where dwelt the pigs that gave the ham that Farmer Brown might well be proud of.
Then they paid a visit to the old back shed, where from her high perch, old Madam Poll Parrot eyed them carefully, first turning her head on one side, and then on the other, and finally, startling them all by saying,—
“Polly wants her supper. Had yours?”
Little Jack was so entirely surprised by the salutation, that he demurely answered, “Yes, ma’am, thank you,” which threw the children into fits of laughter. Madam Poll laughed too, and mortified poor Jack by screaming long after he had got out of her sight:
“Ha! ha! ha! Silly boy! Ha! ha! ha!”
A stranger, on the road, was attracted by the group about Poll, and calling them to him, said,
“I can tell you, children, of a more wonderful Parrot than that. A Clergyman once went on board a ship which had just made the return voyage from Cuba, to try to get a Parrot for his children.
“The Captain said he knew of one man in the forecastle, who had a very unusually imita[Pg 157]tive bird, so the Clergyman went in search of the sailor, and offered him quite a liberal price for his pet. To his surprise the sailor replied:
“‘I want to sell her bad, but she won’t suit the like of you, sir.’
“‘Oh,’ said the other, ‘I am the best judge of that, and am ready to take all risks.’
“‘But, indeed, your reverence, if you must have the truth out of me, you know we sailors are apt, the more shame for us, to let slip bad words often, and you see the bird has got into our ways.’
“‘That is indeed a sad thing,’ said the Clergyman, ‘but I will engage soon to cure him of that fault.’
“The bargain was concluded, and Poll soon found, instead of being laughed at and admired when she said her bad words, she was instantly plunged into a cold bath, from which she came[Pg 158] out so uncomfortable that she had to fly to the warm kitchen, and sit in the chimney-corner.
“One day a poor, shivering little chicken sought shelter in the kitchen from a heavy shower. Poll was there, too, in disgrace, and, as she caught sight of the dripping feathers, she said to her companion bird, ‘You say bad words, too?’
“Now, children, I have been told that this story is true; but, however that may be, never utter a word you would shrink to hear this poor, soulless creature repeat after you.”
The children thanked the traveller for his story, and ran off for another chat with Poll.
Mr. Havens, in the meantime, has lighted his cigar, and is talking on the porch steps with Farmer Brown, whose wife is showing Miss Emma her poultry-yard and dairy, whilst[Pg 159] Hugh, Nan, Charlotte, and Norah are enjoying their meal under the tree.
Then the deepening twilight reminds Papa it is time for the homeward flitting; the bugle sounds its loud notes, the horses, refreshed by their country supper, come gayly prancing up to the cottage door; kisses and kind words are exchanged,—neglected dollies, recovered from their resting-place under the bushes, the “two nurses, two girls, three dollies, and two boys,” are again packed in; the coachman’s whip makes its airy circles, then a crack, and homeward hie the chattering party, just as the silvery moon’s face, peeping from behind the piled-up summer clouds, seemed to say to those fairy lanterns, the fire-flies twinkle, “You may go now, there is no further occasion for you.”
“Here blooming fields and fertile hills appear.
Below the harbor, bay and islands lay,
And there the ocean rolls wide-stretching to the sky.”
Mr. Havens and his aunt were sitting in the garden on their return from their country excursion; the little ones were sound asleep in their nests, and Artie and his sister were chasing fire-flies to put under glasses, when suddenly a loud ring at the front door was followed by Hugh’s appearance with a letter for Mr. Havens, who, after reading it, called the young folk to him—
“Children, do you think you could possibly manage to endure another day’s frolic?”
“Oh, yes, Papa, we are not one bit tired,”[Pg 161] they eagerly replied; “we could run all night long.”
“I don’t intend to try you; but listen to this letter I have just received, and see if you can make anything out of it.”
“Dear old Friend and College Mate:
I learned to-day that you and yours were in the city; but, unluckily for me, had gone this afternoon to the old Brown Farm. The last train for Bristol is almost due, so I write hurriedly, to ask you with your good Aunt, nurses, and little folk, to come to us to-morrow afternoon, by the boat, to spend the Fourth. I have invited a few gentlemen to pass the day on my yacht, but Gertrude will be at home as care-taker, and the bairns will have a merry time.”
“Now, children, wait till we hear what Aunt Emma says.”
“I think, John, it will be a delightful excursion for you all, and am only sorry I cannot join your merry party, but my old friend, Mary[Pg 162] Graham, always passes that day with me, and I do not like to disappoint her.”
“Miss Mary Graham! Oh, Auntie, I remember her nerves, and it will be a great mercy to her, if I remove my noisy collection from the house before she comes, so I will telegraph ‘yes,’ at once. Now, children, you can run back to your fire-flies.”
“Oh, papa,” said Daisy, “I can only stand still and pinch myself, to see if it is truly myself. It seems to me as if everything was getting to be just like fairy-land. Such loads of pleasure coming all at once!”
“And think of it, Daisy, duck, that’s the very same jolly old place Mamma has told us about so many, many times, rainy nights, around the Library fire, where they have no end of pets, and water running close to the house, and clam-bakes and everything.”
“And Alice, and Kit, and May, and Gracie, and good Jem that’s such a hand at telling funny stories! Oh, Artie, man, how ever shall we live till to-morrow? I feel as if I should fly to pieces this instant.”
“I will tell you, Daisy, daughter, the best way to prepare for to-morrow’s pleasure is to run off your excitement now, so take another fire-fly chase and then to bed for a good sleep.”
Mr. Haven’s dreams were disturbed at early dawn by two half-dressed figures leaning over him, coughing violently, and as soon as he opened his sleepy eyes, the figures asked,—
“Papa, had we not better begin to pack now, and dig our worms for bait?”
“Pack yourselves off to bed, you night-walkers,” said the voice from the high pillow,[Pg 164] and the command was enforced by a huge shot in the form of a pillow that sent the laughing children upon their knees. Thence, they started off to the Nursery, when Daisy remembered Papa had said “the little ones were to know nothing yet of the plan lest they should grow restless,” so they wisely concluded to sit and read till it was time to dress for breakfast.
As the children were hurrying from the breakfast-room, Papa said,—
“Artie and Daisy, I did not read you the postscript to my letter, last night, lest you should have been entirely upset by it, so here it is:
“‘Can you not bring down your Aunt’s pet, the little Leonard boy? “The more the merrier,” and Gertrude’s motherly heart, as well as house, has always room for one more.’
“So, children, you may carry this note from me to Mr. Leonard, to see if he is willing Charlie should go with you.”
Mr. Leonard was just coming down the steps of his house, and stopped to read the note, then looking up, much pleased, said,—
“Will you thank your Papa for me, for so kindly offering to take care of my lonely little boy? I shall be very glad to have him enjoy such a treat. His Aunt Julia came on from New Orleans last night, and you will find them both in the front room, in the second story.”
Arrived at the door of Mr. Leonard’s parlor, Artie did, indeed, try to give a genteel knock, but somehow the nervous little fist tightened itself into a young sledge-hammer, and the sound startled the inmates of the room and dyed Daisy’s face with crimson[Pg 166] blushes, as the French maid opened the door with a surprised look, as she said,—
“Oh, est-ce-vous, petits? Voila un grand tappage!”[A]
Aunt Julia came to meet them, with a pleasant smile, for Charlie had talked to her of little else besides “his new splendid New York friends.” Then Charlie laughed out his merry greeting, and showed them his treasures from Aunt Julia’s trunk. A regular fort, with soldiers and cannon, and dried-peas-cannon balls, and a scrap-book, and heaps of colored pictures to paste in, and Charlie screamed with laughter, as he showed them how he had cut off Louis Napoleon’s head with Nannette’s big scissors, when Artie’s heavy knock startled them so, and Artie apologized, saying—
Charlie Leonard’s Scrap Book. Page 166.
“I did not mean to give such a banger, but somehow, the fun in my mind seemed to run right down into my fist, for only think, Charlie, we have come to invite you to go with all of us, to stay two nights and the Fourth of July at Bristol, where there’s an Indian pony and used to be true Indians in King Philip’s time, and is now a bay for fishing and clam-bakes, and two squirrels and a cart, and your father said you might.”
Charlie looked bewilderingly from one to the other, but when Daisy explained the grand plan, in her more quiet manner, Charlie’s delight became intense, and to the children’s great surprise, he ran and hid his head on his Aunt’s shoulder, and they were still more astonished when, a moment after, his Aunt loosened her clasp about him, to see tears in both their eyes, for how could they know that[Pg 168] the little fellow’s great joy made him long for the dear Mamma, who had passed away with the coming of the June roses she had longed for; a Mother who was never too feeble to sympathize in his child-joys, or help him bear his child-griefs.
A good old poet has truly said—
“The tear down childhood’s cheek that flows,
Is like the dew-drop on the Rose;
When next the summer breeze pass by,
And wafts the bush, the flower is dry;”
so in a few moments, the three children were having a merry game of Fort-siege, pelting down with their fatal pea-shot, the brave little soldiers who never winced or offered to run away.
Nannette has returned, with Aunt Emma’s permission, for the children to spend the morning, which was hailed with great delight, for[Pg 169] sieging forts is the work of time, and the young folk thought they could well afford to lose their Croquet and garden sports, to capture such booty as the fort promised.
Three o’clock did come that afternoon, though there seemed to be every reason to suppose it never would, for the hands of Aunt Emma’s tall, old-fashioned clock, which stood in the upper hall, seemed to have grown, suddenly, stiff and rheumatic; the “here she goes, and there she goes,” of the old pendulum, were, surely, never before so deliberate, and as for the old moon-face above the dial, it seemed to take such pleasure in the children’s impatience, that Artie fairly forgot his reverence for old Father Time’s faithful servant, and shook his fist at it, and was just about to assist the old pendulum to take a higher[Pg 170] flight, when the barn-yard mischief and Papa’s stern face came to mind, and he turned away for a slide down the bannisters instead, when he remembered Mamma had forbidden that, so the boy sat down on the stair landing, leaned his elbow on his knee, his cheek on his hand, and tried hard to think—
“Whatever under the sun there was a boy could safely do?” and the only thing seemed to be “to behave!”
As we have said before, three o’clock did come at last, and found Charlotte and Harry in the ladies’ saloon, Papa on the upper deck, holding Jack on his knee, watching the rest of the party, under Nan’s protection, at the side of the boat, holding on with both hands to their hats, which the stiff sea-breeze seemed coaxing away very hard. Whatever sea-breezes want of straw hats is a mystery to us. The[Pg 171] saucy fellows don’t stop for small boys’ hats alone, but Narragansett sailors do tell of a party of grave and learned clergymen coming from a Newport meeting, how the careless, saucy sea-breezes teased those reverend gentlemen, and at last, when fairly out of port, the boldest of them helped himself to the Bishop’s hat, and then ran off to “blow” about it. What that Bishop did, History doesn’t say; whether he made a soldier-cap of his Providence Journal, or a night-cap of his pocket-handkerchief, we cannot confidently say; but, you may rest assured, he made the best of it.
Charlie Leonard, as the most experienced sailor of the party, is explaining to them the nature of the foaming water about them.
“You see, Daisy, you think it’s all for fair white soap-suds, but you see it isn’t so, but the bottom of the bay is all white salt, and[Pg 172] when the keel of the boat rubs it, you see it makes that white salt water, just like when you rub your wet hands on soap. One time, when I was quite small, I thought just as you do, but I found out afterward the truth of it myself.”
Charlie seemed a little disappointed, when Mr. Havens called the group to him and explained—
“Children, you recollect when you blow through your bubble-pipe into your soap and water, how many bubbles are formed by the air rushing through the water; just so the paddle-wheel of the boat acts as your pipe; it agitates or puts in violent motion the water, dashing air down into the water and dashing water up into the air, thus forming multitudes of bubbles which, when driven together, look, as Charley says, like ‘for-fair soap-suds.’ If[Pg 173] you could see the paddle-wheel, you would find it covered with those bubbles.”
“But, Papa,” said Artie, “why do we have to put soap in the water to make our bubbles?”
“Anything which thickens or makes the water firmer, makes the bubbles last longer, Artie; and the oil in your soap does that. You have often seen men along the streets with those bright-colored balloons you are so fond of; those are gum-elastic bubbles, and the sides of which are quite firm.
“I have given you quite a lecture, now you can go back to your ‘soapy waves.’”
“I will be boat-manager,” said Charlie, proudly, “and tell you all the places as we go along. You see that wire bridge? well, in a minute our whistle will scream to it to swing round the half of it, and you see when[Pg 174] we get to it, we will go through just as easy!
“That large, white house is where they make good boys out of bad ones, and the name of it is the ‘Reform School.’ That high frame on the shore is a ‘Grain Elevator.’ It takes the grain right out of the boats and swings it up into stores; that great brick building, with the smooth lawn, is the ‘Hospital.’ I have been there with Aunt Emma to take some toys to a poor little boy who had to have his leg cut off.”
The suspension bridge was passed through, just “as easy” as Charlie had predicted,—the dingy docks and gloomy coal vessels were left behind; and stiffer, bolder sea-breezes loudly-flapped awnings, made sport of women’s and girls’ dresses, and, at last, fairly drove the merry party into the shelter of the upper[Pg 175] saloon, from whence they could safely admire the pretty villages and country-seats which dotted both sides of Narragansett Bay.
Charlie pointed out “Squantum Club-House,” famous for its weekly summer clam-bakes, where the wise men, the rich men, the learned men, and the witty men of Providence meet to eat so many clams, and make so many jokes, that the clams which were so happy as to survive those bakes, had swallowed so many of their crumbs of worldly wisdom and knowledge that, it is said, last summer they formed themselves into a manufacturer’s club, and a literary club, too. One learned Doctor gained such an intimate acquaintance with them that they let him into some of their secrets, and lent him some verses they had composed, which were read at the next learned clam-bake,—and all were clamorous for copies.
Rocky Point’s high tower now loomed up in the distance, and as the boat passed, Charlie told off the swinging boats, the miniature railway, the flying horses, and cages of monkeys, which attracted such hosts of men and women, boys, girls, and babies, day after day. Then the bay grew wider, and little islands rose out of its waters, and one little rock, with a stone light-house, where, Mr. Havens told them, the Keeper, whose business it was always to keep the lamp lighted at night, to warn vessels off the rocks, lived with his little son, in a small house; and one severe winter night the water rose and the ice carried away little house, man, and boy, who were fortunately rescued by a life-boat.
The children’s attention was next arrested by a school of black porpoises, see-sawing on the waves’ tops, and Jack asked—
“Why they went to school, when they had no heads nor book-straps?”
Papa explained, as well as he could, “That they went to school to learn to catch small fish, and Dame Nature was their teacher;” at which the children laughed merrily, and were interested in Papa’s account of some gentleman’s experience in raising and training fish. How they would come to get their dinner when the bell was rung for them, and of little gold rings being fastened on their fins when they were tiny fish, which were found long after upon large fish, caught in nets, showing what good sailors they were that, after going off to strange waters, they were able to find their way back to their own homes again.
The pretty villas of Newport Harbor were now visible, then the steeples of Fall River,[Pg 178] and very soon the boat slackened its speed,—the bell rung,—the sailors rushed to throw the huge cables over the dock’s posts, and the children see Papa waving his hat to a gentleman in a large beach wagon, on the wharf, who returns the salute with such a bright, pleased look, as promises well for the longed-for visit at Bristol.
“Over the river and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barn-yard gate
We seem to go
It is so hard to wait.
Hurrah for the fun!
Our ride is done,
And our frolics are just begun!”
“Now,” said Mr. Harwood, when the Menagerie were safely packed, “we will start for the station, where Jem, my oldest, is due from boarding-school. Come, ponies, do your best, we won’t keep the dear boy waiting.”
There, upon the station steps, guarding his trunk and packages, stood a tall boy of fifteen, in gray uniform, looking eagerly up the road. Mr. Harwood tightly grasped the boy’s brown hand as he presented him to his friend. Jem’s first words were an inquiry after his Mamma, and then, without ceremony, he plunged in among the young folk, and before a single mile of the long road which lay between Bristol and his country home was passed, Jem Harwood was regarded by all the little party as just the best fellow that ever lived. How patiently that big boy, who had travelled all day in a heated rail-car, answered all those little questions! Yes! and put away from his mind pleasant thoughts of the longed-for meeting with the darling mother, to repeat to them the stories they had heard so many, many times. How little Alice was missed[Pg 181] one Saturday afternoon at “Tub” time, as they called the bathing-hour, and was found bare-footed, in the brook, with the new little Indian pony, giving him his Saturday bath, scrubbing him down with her little pocket-handkerchief, and smoothing out his long, glossy mane with her own comb, whilst her tooth-brush, powder-box, and toilet-soap were lying, ready for use, in a little basket, suspended from her neck. “The squirrel” was as playful as ever, and one day he had hidden in Ned’s overcoat, quite unknown to its owner, who had hung it up in the school-room hall, and was surprised enough, when prayers were over, to see the squirrel hopping upon the master’s table.
How the children screamed with fun to see how spryly Johnny Black sprung away from the master’s long arm, till, at last, the teacher[Pg 182] was fairly tired out, and Johnny Black gained for the boys a good hour’s play, hunting him from pillar to post, and finally catching him by the aid of a slip-noose. “The fun,” Jem said, “did not appear half so funny when the recess brought to light the fact that Johnny Black, always so well-behaved at home, had spent the prayer-time in pilfering nuts from the boys’ dinner-baskets, and nibbling their crackers and cheese. Poor Ned felt he was somehow to blame for the theft, and coaxed Mamma into giving him a basket of “goodies” to make a regular “spread” for the next day’s nooning.
“Johnny Black is a funny name for a gray squirrel, Jem,” said little Bear, who was taking a lively interest in the stories.
“Oh! we had two squirrels, and the other, whose name was Dandy Jim, was lost. We[Pg 183] got the names from some funny verses in May’s Rhyme Book.”
“Do say them, Jem, dear,” begged Rosie.
“Well, then, here goes—
“Two little squirrels lived in a wood,
One was naughty and one was good;
The naughty one’s name was Dandy Jim,
(His mother was very fond of him;)
The good one’s name was Johnny Black,
He had beautiful fur all down his back,
And he never went near the railroad track.
But Dandy Jim (alas for him!)
Would not heed what his mother did say,
But far away from his home would stray
Over the hills and far away.
And one bright summer day
He never came back!
For, going too near the railroad track,
The locomotive ran over him,
And that was the end of Dandy Jim.
But Johnny Black,
He always came back.
He never went far from his home astray,
He thought that at home was the place to stay,
He minded his Mother, where’er he might be;
He thought that his Mother knew better than he.”
The children clapped their hands so loudly, when Jem finished, that the horses pricked up their ears and started off on a brisk gallop. Presently, a gay sight met the eyes of the party.
Coming up the road to meet them, was a little cart, drawn by a solemn-looking Indian pony, whose head and harness were decked with small flags; the cart was filled to overflowing with merry-faced boys and girls, with flags and streamers fastened to their hats, and bearing a banner with the words “Welcome Home,” in large letters, upon its face.
Mr. Harwood reined in the impatient horses as the gay cavalcade came near, whilst Jem stood up and raised his hat. Then came such a hurrahing and clapping of hands, and flapping of streamers, in which the Haven children joined so heartily that Artie’s hands were blistered, and Jack’s voice hoarse as a young raven’s for hours after.
The good-natured elder brother had to get down from the wagon, and submit to be smothered with kisses, and then it was arranged that all the boys, except Harry, should ride together in the cart, and the little girls were lifted up into the beach wagon, where, at first, they felt a little shy, till May discovered a dolly’s head peeping from under Daisy’s wrap, and then the young mothers “found their tongues,” and very soon everybody was talking,—and nobody was listening,—and every lit[Pg 186]tle body thought every other little body “ever so nice.”
Presently, the pony-cart drew up to the wagon-side, and Jem called out—
“Mr. Havens, and Papa, is there any objection to our stopping a few moments at Sam Colt’s, the blacksmith’s? It seems these city children have never seen a horse shod, and I see Mike taking in Farmer Boyce’s gray.”
“Thank you for the thought, Jem,” called Papa; “and the little girls would enjoy it, too.”
Sam Colt Shoeing Farmer Boyce’s Gray. Page 186.
The old tumble-down blacksmith’s shop, at the fork of the roads, was a picture indeed. The red-hot iron, throwing out its shower of golden sparks, Farmer Boyce’s gray, bending his proud, arched neck, and meekly yielding his fore foot to the clasp of the smith’s sinewy[Pg 187] arm! Little Jack thought it must be “so nice to sleep in your shoes, and have no bother with shoe-butnens and laces,” but timidly shrank back at the nailing part, and could not be made to understand that it was not painful to the horny hoof.
Now, the road, for a short distance, lies close along the shore of Bristol Bay, where the setting sun has just given a golden “tipping” to the wavelets, whose soft lapping sound is new music to the city children’s ears.
A huge farm-gate, at the end of this bit of shore road, swings open to receive the gay cavalcade; a thick grove of chestnut trees was passed through, then beach wagon and pony cart halted at the door of a large, old-fashioned farm-house, over whose broad porch rose-bushes and honeysuckles climbed at will,[Pg 188] even boldly venturing to peer into the very windows of the chambers above, whilst buttercups and white daisies, quite at home, nestling in the green grass of the smooth lawn, laughed out their bright welcome to the little folk, and bade them make themselves at home, too, for this was Liberty Hall.
Jem gives a spring, and is in the lovely-looking lady’s arms, who stands waiting on the porch, whilst shy little Bessie hides her curly head in the folds of her mother’s dress, half afraid and half eager for the stranger brother’s kiss.
Mrs. Harwood needs no introduction to her dear friend’s children, for Mamma’s letters have long ago made “Artie, Daisy, Rosie, Harry, and Jack,” household words at Harmony Hall.
The bread and butter on the waiting tea-[Pg 189]table was capital, never milk more golden, Lady Bee at home, and Busy Bee in her hive, have helped to spread the table with dainties, and salt sea is the best sauce in the world; but still the ten children found it a tedious meal, and wondered whether good Jem had been quite starved at school,—that he could stow away such a quantity of food, and whether he had not, may be, lost his teeth, that he took such a while.
Kind Mr. Harwood, at last, read the wistful look in their faces, and bade them take a run to the shore before it grew too late, and good Jem left such a bit of cocoanut cake on his plate as boarding-school boys only dream of, to marshal the excited little crowd down the sloping lawn to the nice sanded floor of their shore parlor, and out to the edge of the little wharf where lay Psyche, Mr.[Pg 190] Harwood’s yacht, with its gay streamers, in anticipation of the morrow’s sport. The good-natured yachtsmen helped all the little ones on board, and enjoyed the eagerness with which they examined sails, anchor, cable, compass, cabin, deck, and pantry, and peered into the well-filled hampers. Then, on shore again, Jem and his brothers exhibited rare powers of “skipping” stones, and the younger ones splashed and dashed with bits of wood and pebbles, to their hearts’ content. Ned suddenly cried—
“Halloo! men alive, if there isn’t old Sam, the blind clam-man, and his cart, coming up our road. What does that mean, I should like to know? Let’s find out.”
“The men alive,” consisting of Ned, Artie, Charlie, and Kit, with little Jack toiling in their rear, started off on a quick run to find out[Pg 191] for themselves the “meaning” of Black Sam’s clam-cart paying them a visit at that time of night. Mamma explained the mystery thus—
“You know, children, to-morrow is the Fourth, and as your Papa and his friends are to be gone all day on the yacht, I thought the greatest pleasure I could give you was an out-of-door fish dinner, which you are to prepare entirely yourselves. I will be your guest. I know you like to dig your own clams; but, as you will need many, Papa thought it best for Sam to bring some to-night, with oysters, too.”
“Thank you, Mamma; clam-bakes are the best of fun,” screamed Ned, and Jem, coming near with the little girls, called out—
“Three cheers for the best Mamma in the world!” That was a signal; and I am sure the clams in Bristol Bay must have heard[Pg 192] those cheers, and opened their mouths in astonishment, and am quite certain the fishes must have popped up their heads to ask if the Fourth of July had really come. Oh, wasn’t it well for those soft-shelled clams and simple fishes that they could not know what the morrow was to bring forth?
“Forward, Light Brigade!”
Mr. Havens could hardly believe his sleepy eyes, as, wakened at sunrise by the sound of booming cannon and distant church bells, he parted his curtains and saw—yes, really saw,—a procession of children, bearing drums, guns, and banners, whilst gay barn-yard feathers tipped their three-cornered soldier hats. There they all were—Artie, Ned, Daisy, Kit, Alice, Charlie, May, Rosie, Jack, Grace, with Nan in their rear.
“Is Charlotte crazy,” yawns Papa, “to let those children out at such an hour? I must speak seriously to her about this.”
But Papa did not speak “seriously” to Charlotte about this, for the next moment he caught sight of Jem dragging a little wagon, in which Bear was seated most comfortably, waving a flag, and leading by a long string the family pet lamb, with gay streamers floating from his snowy neck, and as Papa saw the look of delight on his sick boy’s face, all thoughts of displeasure vanished, and his heart thrilled with pleasure. Faithful Charlotte walked close beside her little charge, and Ranger, the great mastiff, solemnly kept her company.
Bright eyes soon discover Papa peeping through the curtains. Captain Ned gives orders to “Halt! Turn! About face! Fire!”
And the drums beat, guns fire, and flags wave a salute, and then comes the marching order, whilst Yankee Doodle is famously played on combs and Jew’s harp.
Tramp, tramp, tramp! and the second halt is made at the barn-yard, where each member of the regiment, including the lamb, is refreshed by a drink of warm milk in the little cup which each has fastened to his or her waist; then the new Alderney calf, with its bright gazelle eyes and sweet June breath, comes gayly up to meet them, and be duly smoothed and admired, whilst the anxious mother watches Jem a little doubtfully whilst he celebrates the calf’s first national birthday by tying a flag to her tail. Next in order comes the poultry-yard with its new brood of tiny sebrights—Gracie’s special charge—the pure white bantams with their scarlet topknots and feather pantalettes, and the quacking ducks with clumsy waddling gait. Old Zero, the cross game-cock, eyes the visitors with some displeasure, betrays a little disposition to “show fight,” and refuses stoutly to[Pg 196] “turn tail,” that the saucy rogues may rob him of some of his glorious plumage. Very likely the far-seeing bird recognized some of his own feathers, gayly waving in the morning breeze, from the top of the soldiers’ caps, and this accounts for the party not being in “high feather” with him.
Ned discovers to Artie the secrets of the nests, and the two boys come out triumphant with hands full of eggs and hair full of straws, which suggests further sport in that direction, and the regiment disbands for a roll on the haymow, which ends by Artie’s finding himself suddenly lying in the manger, where Nero and Zantippe, from their stalls, survey him with huge, surprised eyes, as if wondering at which end they should begin to nibble. Our young master was a good deal terrified at his situation, and not much relieved when roguish Kit Har[Pg 197]wood offered “to help him out with a pitchfork;” but good Jem, who had warned the children to beware of the hole where the horses’ food was thrown down to them, soon came to the rescue, and lent a helping hand. The pigeon-house at the top of the barn was next resorted to, and Jem stayed with little Bear, and brought a chickling, which had lately burst his shell, and laid the little peeping chick in the thin hand which could only be tender in its touch. Cæsar, the coachman, lifts Jack upon Nero’s high back, whilst the children watch the horses eating their morning meal so solemnly and slowly too.
Jack runs to wash his little fat hands in the morning dew, for Cæsar does it, and so it must be “the thing.”
Suddenly the large bell in the hall rings loudly, and this welcome message from the[Pg 198] waiting breakfast finds ready echo in their willing ears, and a general stampede follows.
That was a merry morning meal. Papa and his friends had sailed an hour ago in the trim Psyche, from its little harbor at the wharf, and there were so many pleasures, past and yet to come, that a great deal of talking had to be done, besides their exercise in the cool morning air seemed to have turned each little body into a huge hamper, where a marvellous amount of soft-boiled eggs, muffins, and cold ham had to be packed out of sight for the day’s needs.
Mamma was just proposing they should remain near the house till midday, keeping the shore pleasures for a later hour, when the little pony suddenly came walking into the dining-room through the low porch! He had heard the merry voices, and knew Alice had a bit of sugar for him. What could be the matter?[Pg 199] Hadn’t he waited out by the window, nibbled off the leaves of the rose-bush, and finally thrust in his head, all in vain? Alice is listening to one of Jem’s boarding-school tales, and has no eyes or ears for pony this morning; so, of course, there was nothing else for pony to do but to walk upon the clean porch, after having, it is hoped, carefully cleaned his shoes on the scraper, then step lightly into the hall, and thence to the dining-room. Jem must stop his tale now, and let the old school-bell hang without its pillaged clapper, for never before was Harmony Hall honored by such a guest. Pony had thought it could be no harm to take such a liberty, just for once, and wasn’t this a free country, and weren’t we all independent citizens? If not, pony would like to know why the cannons, bells, pistols, and squibs had been saying so ever since day[Pg 200]light. Pony was right, Mamma seemed to think—for she herself picked out the largest lump of sugar, which the old silver claw could grasp, and fed him with it, gently reminding Coco that only on the Fourth of July could such liberties be permitted. Nan came in the room, in the midst of the scene, with Baby Bess in her arms, who screamed with delight at seeing Coco in the dining-room, and called so loudly, “Me yide, me yide,” that Jem held her on his back, whilst he turned him out on the lawn.
The rabbit-hutch is the next place to be visited, for Jem said “he had not yet paid his respects to his ‘bunnies,’” and as everybody agreed to everything in Harmony Hall, off started the noisy band.
The rabbits were a little shy at first, but were very soon lured from their burrows by the smell of the dewy clover and cabbage[Pg 201] leaves Jem had carried for them, who showed the children the different marks called “smut” upon their faces, which told their value.
The finest specimen had a black “smut,” or patch of dark fur. The single smut was a patch on one side of the nose; the double, on each side, and the butterfly, a patch on either side, and one on the ridge of the nose. Then he exhibited the “dew laps and long laps,” and told them how bravely they would defend their young. Jem said,—
“Our French teacher, at school, is from Poland, where the snow lies long and is very deep. He says that in his country the hares choose spots in the snow to lie down in, and let the snow fall all around and about them, thus forming a cave for their winter house. Their warm breath thaws the snow about their nose so as to make air-holes to breathe through.[Pg 202] Hunters know of this, and train their dogs to search for these air-holes, and stand guard till they arrive to shoot them. Then, they have a funny trait, like some children: they are always looking behind them, and so often, whilst looking for danger in their rear, rush right in among hunters and their dogs without seeing them.”
“Now, Jem,” said Artie, as they left the rabbit-hutch, “what is the next animal to be seen? I like your menagerie a great deal better than ours. I mean, real animals are a great deal more fun than boys and girls, shut up in a city house, with scarcely a tree or bit of sky that seems to belong to you.”
“However, boy,” said Kit, “did you get to call yourselves The Menagerie?”
“Why, this is how: One rainy day, Papa was ill with a cold, and Mamma got a letter[Pg 203] from your mother telling about your pets, and we were discontented because we had none but a dog and cat; so Papa proposed we should form ourselves into a Home Menagerie, and we had such regular fun that day making cages, feeding and performing, that we have kept up our names ever since.”
“Oh, Jem dear,” said Gracie, “if you are not too tired to-night won’t you please play elephant and old cat, like you used to? It’s such a while since we have seen them.”
“Yes, little sister, I will certainly do it if you are all good children. Now we will go to visit the old dormouse.”
“What a nice brother to have, Jem is!” said Daisy, taking Alice’s hand as they walked along. “He seems so ready to do everything you ask him.”
“Yes,” said solemn-eyed little Alice, as her[Pg 204] eyes proudly followed the tall boy in gray uniform, with boys on either side; boys and girls before and behind, and small boy riding on his back. “Yes, we all like Jem. He is so generous and wise to us.”
“Why is the fellow called Dormouse?” asked Daisy.
“Because,” Jem answered, “the word means sleepy-mouse, and he spends most of his time napping. Just feel, Daisy, how soft and delicate his long hair is! You need not squirm so, he won’t jump at you. He is too much of a sleepy-head to take any trouble; see, I can tumble him right over without waking him.”
“Oh, Jem, tell the story Mamma read us about the English lady and the dormice,” said Kit, “it is so famous.”
“An English lady was invited to take tea[Pg 205] one night with an old lady who had a pair of pet dormice; after tea, the visitor went to an evening concert, and on her return home found a note from the old lady, saying,—that immediately after she left the house, one of the dormice was missing, and begged she would carefully examine her clothes,—for sometimes her pets would hide away in the folds of a dress for hours. The lady searched in vain; no pet dormouse appeared, so she began to prepare for bed, when, to her great astonishment, on combing out her long hair, she found the mouse hiding in a thick curl. How he got up there, or when, or how he managed to hang on, was always a mystery.”
“That was funny enough,” agreed the children, and turned their attention to the squirrel in his cage. Jem threw in a handful of nuts, and it was curious to see how daintily he turned[Pg 206] them all over, throwing aside those that were not perfectly good, and when he found one just to his taste, sat himself on his hind legs, cushioning his seat with his tail, then holding the nut in the fore paws, he chiselled out the tip with his front teeth, then broke off the shell, and slowly nibbled the kernel. Jem told the children how useful that great bushy tail was—as cushion by day, and warm blanket at night.
Next on the list came the pigs. But pig-sties, in summer, are not places to tarry long near, so the children started for home, when, suddenly, a loud scream was heard, and Jem darted back in the direction from which the sound came, and soon learned its cause. The two Monkeys had slipped away from the party, to take another look at the pigs, and climbed to the top of the fence, with long sticks in[Pg 207] their hands, “to worry the pigs.” The old Lady of the Sty was so indignant that, at the first thrust, she had rushed toward the fence, making such a fearful noise, that the terrified Rosie had lost her balance, and something or somebody (Rosie, in her fright, could not tell which, but rather thought it was herself) fell over into the sty, right under the quivering nostrils of the angry pigs. There stood Rosie, screaming and stamping outside, whilst roguish Jack was running away as fast as his little short legs could carry him, and Jem found, to his great relief, that what Rosie, in her fright, had supposed to be her little self, was really only her pretty straw hat which piggies were devouring, daisy, wreath and all.
Kind-hearted Jem sat down on the trunk of a tree, near, and, taking the sobbing child on his knee, tenderly soothed her, first prom[Pg 208]ising one of Alice’s sunbonnets for her future use, then, as the children gathered anxiously about him, the boy proposed to tell them a Family Pig Story.
“Do, Jem,” half sobbed, half laughed little Rosie, “I really think it would make my scare better.”
“Do, Jem, old fellow,” chimed in Ned and Kit; “stories of animals never seem to grow rusty.”
“Mamma ought really to tell this,” said Jem, “for she has a kind of a way, when she tells her stories, of seeming to make everything and everybody walk right before your eyes; but I’ll do the best I can.”
“Once upon a time, in the History of the Harwood Family, news came to the house that one of the Madame Pigs had died in the night, and left behind her a poor little baby-[Pg 209]pig, which had no one to pity and take care of him. So the family finished their breakfast, in a great hurry, and started off for the sty, or, rather, for the sake of ears polite, we will say the pig parlor.”
“Oh, Jem, don’t be a goose, go on,” impatiently cried Kit.
“There, sure enough, was found a white-skinned, pink-nosed little piggie, looking very disconsolate, ‘whilst the salt tear-drops streamed down piggie’s eyes.’ Papa said we must bring her up by hand, and from that hour, Piggie Pink, as we called her, was our special pet, and the lawn her play-ground. Alice and Grace spent all their money in ribbons for her. You may imagine she was a beauty, she kept herself very clean, and Gracie tied pink ribbons about her neck and a pink sash around her waist, and a rosette upon her tail, every[Pg 210] birthday or festival. We used to coax Mamma to let us bring Piggie Pink into the house, but to that she would never consent. One Fourth of July, every one but Mamma had gone to the village to see the goings-on there—even the servants had gone, for Mamma said she would enjoy the quiet, and not feel lonely. She seated herself upstairs, with a book, when the thought came into her head, ‘I will first go downstairs and make the children a nice loaf of their favorite citron cake; they will come home very hungry, and enjoy it so much.’ So the nice loaf of cake was made and put in the tin box in the pantry, and the kind Mamma sat down again to her story. Once or twice, she fancied she heard funny little noises; but as she wasn’t afraid of ghosts, and knew Ranger would keep off robbers, she paid no attention to the noise at[Pg 211] first; at last her curiosity was aroused, and off she started, to find out what company she was entertaining. The parlor was empty, and so was the library, but as she stepped through the open door of the dining-room, she found her pantry door open,—the tin cake-box she had put on the shelf was open, too, on the floor,—outside of it were two little white legs and a little quirled tail, with a pink rosette on it, and over the edge of the tall cake-box hung a pink sash, whilst two fore paws and a pink head were buried in her nice, soft warm cake. Mamma was sorry to have no cake to offer us when we got home, but she said she had had a very hearty laugh. Piggie Pink had seemed so unconscious that she was not doing the proper thing, and never once offered to run away. That’s all my story, says Peter Parley.”
“Jem,” asked Rosie, who had quite forgotten her recent adventure, “what is a ghost?”
“Well, really, my little maid, you bother me there,” said Jem, thoughtfully, “I should say it was a—a—”
“Isn’t it really a kind of a live nothing, Jem?” asked Charlie Leonard.
“Well, yes, Charlie,” Jem answered. “I should say you had just about got the idea.”
The children next bent their steps to the house, where Mamma gave them a nice lunch of bread and fruit, and then sent the little ones off with the nurse, for a nap to rest them before the great frolic of the day.
The older boys threw themselves into the hammocks, under the shady trees, while Mrs. Harwood, in the cool library, read some of[Pg 213] Hans Andersen’s bewitching tales to the little girls, who sat dressing their dolls in their sea-side suits, to be in readiness for the shore dinner.
“How happy are they
Who have clams every day!”
One o’clock finds the girls, boys, nurses, dollies, and big Ranger escorting Mamma to the shore, where Jem, Ned, and Kit threw off their coats, which Artie saw meant work, and so immediately followed their example.
Now, fresh water must be brought, in pails, from the little spring which rippled from a rock near the water’s edge. A large iron bar had next to be run through a hole in one of the fence-posts, and upon it an iron pot was hung. To the small boys was given[Pg 215] the privilege of picking up pieces of brush in the grove and piling them up under the kettle, all ready for Jem to kindle a grand fire. Then shoes and stockings had to be pulled off, and the four older boys, with shovels, rakes, and baskets, waded in the shallow water for the great work of digging clams. Artie thought it about the most prodigious sport he had ever dreamed of, and shouted loudly to all his brothers and sisters to look at every clam he was fortunate enough to bring to light, whilst Jack, always true to his belief that “paddling in the water was the best fun of anything,” sat on a rock, looking wistfully on and digging up the sand around him with his impatient little toes.
Then the baskets of clams were set down in the water, that the tide might wash through them and carry away some of the mud and[Pg 216] sand which clings to them; and whilst this process was going on, Kit good humoredly brought a small part of the coveted Bay to the little ones. Oh, what a Kit! May runs to the house for the little wooden pails and shovels, and oh, how those little beavers work! What cannot be made out of sand and water I should like to know? Beautiful gardens appear, with rows of little trees, and walks paved with tiny shells and glittering pebbles. Old Lottie, who sprang to life from the family rag-bag, is condemned to be buried alive, whilst for Maude and Evangeline, dainty city dolls, fine thrones are piled up, from which they may look down on the dirty hands and aprons of their young mothers and uncles. Dr. Kit prescribes for Euphemia, who has fits of not being able to stand on her feet, continued “hot sand baths.”[Pg 217] Then dollies are left in peace, whilst all turn their hands to manufacturing sand pies, and then wells must be dug and filled with water for future use.
Presently the children see Artie and Ned rushing to the house to harness Coco to the little cart to bring down black Sam’s loads of oysters and clams. Alice sets the example of cleanliness to her companions by going down to the water’s edge to wash her hands, and instantly the fashion takes, and Bristol Bay is turned into a huge water basin, and its sandy shores into a dressing-room.
Nan, Charlotte, and the Haven servants now came down from the house, in merry mood, bearing brown bread, a pail of butter packed in ice, chickens dressed for the gridiron, and a huge Indian pudding. Artie and Kit tumble over the Princesses Maude and[Pg 218] Evangeline, making their thrones things of the past, in their haste to get over into the next field to dig the fresh, new potatoes. Gracie, under Sarah, the cook’s, direction, with Daisy for her assistant, prepares the chowder. First into the iron pot she places slices of pork, which she heats to a crisp brown; then go in layers of well-seasoned clams, shorn of their ugly shells by Jem’s jack-knife; layers of sliced potatoes, and onions and crackers. Then layers of clams again till the pot is quite filled. I assure you very delicious is the steamy odor which soon fills the air and quickens the appetite. Two wooden horses are saddled with boards and blanketed with snow-white table cloths, to bear the burden of the day’s feast. In the middle stands the grand Indian pudding, with a flag springing up from the centre to mark the day, and[Pg 219] guarded on each side by great piles of brown-bread. Jem carefully brings the rich green watermelon from the spring where it has been cooling, and with deft hands and valuable jack-knife, cuts it up into most bewitching mitre forms. Sarah, the cook, ladles out, on huge platters, the smoking, savory chowder. Then Jem, with Mamma’s permission, gives the order to “Fall in!” and in much less time than it takes me to tell it, the little Madison Avenue Menagerie make the acquaintance of the Rhode Island shore dinner which has made the tiny State so famous.
Little Jack, with mouth full of brown-bread, says,—
“I always frought bakes was in ovens and boils was in pots,” which makes the Harwood children laugh as they explain it is not yet time for “the bake;” there is fishing to be done first.
When the rods were brought out, wasn’t Artie pleased to find his so admired! Jem, himself, had never seen one so fine—even Jem, who showed him how to cut clams and put them on the hook, as better bait than worms,—told him from just what spot on the wharf he must fling out his line, and watched that line as well as his own, telling him just how long to let the fish nibble and just when to draw in.
When, finally, the prize came to land, it proved to be a large-sized, silvery scup, and then the city boy was almost wild with joy. Oh, wouldn’t that be a story to tell his children’s children, how their grandfather, at the age of ten, caught a regular scup, and a “two-pounder at that!”
“For he looked at the scales and found it so,
Just as his friend, Jem, had told him, oh!”
How Artie longed to lay the squirming trophy at his Mamma’s feet, and claim a loving kiss as best reward!
But, look! this is no time for dreaming! Jem’s “bob” has disappeared entirely, and “Jem is having a tricky one to deal with,” Ned whispers,—
Ha! ha! Master Fish, you have got your match at the other end of the line. Our Jem is an “old hand,” he knows all your wiles, and even now is pretending not to have the least idea you are in his power. Now he loosens; now tightens gently his line; slowly winds up; and now, with dexterous jerk, swings upon the sand a fine tautog, Newporters’ dainty breakfast. Yes; there is the poor fellow, with his fine, bright eyes, white skin and black scales, leaping in the air!
The sport went on. Tautog, scup, and[Pg 222] sometimes a striped bass, lie quivering on the sand.
Bear asks Aunt Gertrude,—
“Why do they give the fish such a queer name as tautog?”
“It is from two Indian words—taut, which means rocks, and og, fish. This tautog hides among the rocks, when the tide comes in, to get away from the larger fish, who would eat him up. He lives mostly on sea plants and insects.”
“But don’t you think it seems cruel to kill the poor things?”
“Scarcely that, dear, for God has made them for our use. Don’t you remember our Saviour’s feeding the hungry multitude with loaves and fishes in the wilderness? The fish, in their turn, devour insects, and as they peep their heads above the waters to catch[Pg 223] them, the instinct of the birds, which seems God’s voice in them, teaches them to watch for their appearance, dart down upon and devour them. But, see, Artie is beckoning for us, and here comes Nan to carry you up to the bake.”
For the sake of far-away children, who have never visited Narragansett shores, let me explain, that upon stones, which have been thoroughly heated, large quantities of sea-weed are thrown, and upon that, clams, oysters, and sometimes lobsters, chickens, sweet-potatoes, and corn are put.
After Jem had placed his clams and oysters on the sea-weed, the boys covered them up with more weed, and over the smoking mass placed a large piece of sail-cloth, from whose seams and cracks, ere long, came an odor which was well worth a journey from[Pg 224] New York to inhale, for certainly there is nothing just like it. It will not be strange if ere long enterprising Rhode Island druggists send to the far-away cities bottles marked “Clam-bake Perfume,” which shall rival that of “Heliotrope” or “New Mown Hay.”
The table has been neatly prepared, Sarah’s broiled chickens are smoking there, and now every boy,
“Be he great or be he small,”
has the pleasure of raking over the smoking seaweed, to bring to light the steaming clams and oysters, and filling the great earthen pudding-dishes with them, ready for the eating.
How the Haven children looked to see the Harwood boys, yes, and girls too, eating clams as if “fingers had, indeed, been made before forks!” Aunt Gertrude read their look of[Pg 225] astonishment, and explained to them that picking out clams with the fingers at a clam-bake was quite allowable, and that she herself always did it; and so the children quickly followed her example. It really was great fun for the boys with appetites sharpened by hard work, to run races eating clams,—striving to see who could soonest get a pile of shells he could not look over. This sounds to city ears, unused to clam-bake tastes, very, very strange, almost very improper; but we can only plead—
“’Tis a way we have in Rhode Island, boys!
To drive dull care away.”
The children’s attention was presently diverted from their Bake by the sight of a large bird hovering over them, holding something in her beak.
Their eyes followed the bird as she made[Pg 226] great circles in the air,—descending lower and lower, till just as she was within shot, something dropped heavily upon the table, which proved to be a poor bleeding fish. Mrs. Harwood said—
“This bird is a Fish Hawk, and has its nest in one of our old pear trees, which you will presently see. It hovers over the water to watch for fish, coming to the surface to get their dinner of insects, and then pounces down upon them. You see, to-day she has caught a poor little bass, and, as she was carrying it through the air to her nest, the little fish’s tender flesh has been torn away, and he has dropped from his enemy’s beak upon the table before us. The Fish Hawk nest was built here before my husband’s birth, and is more than fifty years old. It is about as large in size as a half barrel, but none of us[Pg 227] have ever seen the inside, for, generally, it has a very bad odor of stale fish. The Hawk has a great time every spring, house-cleaning, and putting down their fresh carpets of twigs and pebbles.”
“Why don’t you climb up, Jem, and see the inside of the nest for yourself?” asked Artie.
“For three good reasons, sir: First and foremost, Papa would not allow it; second, the tree would not, for it is quite dead, and unsafe for climbing; and, lastly, because I am so fortunate as to have a nose.”
“Daisy,” said Kit, “do look over the fence into the next field, and see those solemn cows watching us over the bars. They always come and stare at us when we have our Bakes, and generally, when we are fishing or digging clams on the shore, they come and stand in[Pg 228] the water, and watch us by the hour, with their big, serious eyes.”
Rosie asked Aunt Gertrude if she might give the good cows some clam-bake?
“Yes, dear,” she replied, “I think they would enjoy the melon-rind and bread-crusts, very much.”
Rosie filled a basket with the remnants of the feast, and emptied it between the bars right at the feet of a “baby-cow,” as she called it, when, to her terror, just as the little calf put her head down to taste the nice morsels, two of the old cows came running toward her in a most furious manner, lowering their horns as if they were going to toss her; at which the baby-cow galloped off as fast as possible, and the selfish old animals ate up the whole feast, and went off leisurely, chewing their cud as if they had[Pg 229] been doing the most well-behaved and proper thing in the world.
Jem told Rosie to “never mind, it was their way;” and Aunt Gertrude said—
“Cows are very sensitive; they will not stand any disrespect from the young ones. In a herd of cattle the eldest always takes the lead, and none of the young dare leave the pasture till the older ones have set the example.
“It is quite funny to see with how much contempt a new calfie is treated, when she makes her first appearance in the barn-yard. She is pushed aside by her elders, and not allowed to go near the feeding-trough till they have finished their meal, sometimes losing her supper altogether; but when another calf comes in, calfie the first turns tyrant, and treats her in the same manner. When I have[Pg 230] seen young people push past older persons, in going out from a room, or choose for themselves the most comfortable seats, I have said to myself, ‘Even the little calves have been better trained.’ Indeed, I assure you, there is a deal of etiquette observed in the barn-yard parlor.”
“Do cows ever hurt children, Aunt Gertie,” asked little Bear.
“Sometimes, dear, but very rarely. A very short while ago a friend of mine, the widow of a clergyman, went with her only child, a lovely, bright boy of eight, to live in a quiet little mountain village. Here Spencer, for that was his name, soon won the love of all the villagers, by his gentle manners and helpful ways. His mother playfully wrote me that it seemed as if the child looked upon the village as ‘his father’s parish, and the villagers[Pg 231] as parishioners left to his charge by that father.’ Day after day the little fellow might be seen wending his way through the village streets with his little pail of soup, or basket of dainties, for some sick person. Other days, the cottagers would stand at their doors watching the ‘minister’s boy,’ as he was always called, dragging out, in his little wagon, a neighbor’s sick baby, whilst the mother rested her weary back; and from this child of eight, those simple folk learned lessons of charity never to be forgotten.
“One summer morning, his mother heard him, at daylight, passing her bedroom door. She called, him to come to her, and he came in with his little box of tools, saying, ‘I did not mean to waken you, mother dear, but last night, when I passed poor old widow Sampson’s, I saw a board loose on her steps,[Pg 232] and I kept waking up in the night and worrying for fear the poor old lady might fall and badly hurt herself before I could get there to fix it.’
“Just as he was about to leave the room, he said, ‘Oh, mother, in my hurry, I have forgotten my morning prayer; may I kneel here by your bed, and say it?’ His mother heard him whispering the Lord’s Prayer, till he came to the words, ‘Thy will be done.’ There he stopped, then slowly repeated the petition, and finishing his prayer, stooped over and kissed his mother many times, and then ran off, humming a favorite song.
“An hour after, distressed villagers brought back little Spencer’s lifeless body. A farmer had called to ask him if he would stand and hold open a gate, whilst his cattle were driven through, and as he stood there, a cross ani[Pg 233]mal lowered its horns suddenly, and tossed the little fellow in the air, killing him instantly.
Little Spencer Gathering Brush for Widow Sampson’s Fire. Page 233.
“The whole village mourned the child, and poor Widow Sampson came to tell the mother how she had been the little fellow’s care during all the last winter. Every snow-storm brought Spencer to her door with his little barrow, filled with bits of brush he had gathered, and when ill, he came every day to minister to her wants.
“I have been told that the farmer immediately killed the treacherous cow, and when he sent its flesh to the poor people, they all sent back, saying, ‘they thanked him kindly, but that meat they could not eat.’
“I am afraid my story has saddened you, but I see the Psyche is in sight, and Papa is making signals. I know he wanted to give us a little sail when he returned, so we must hurry.”
“To bravest heart, the tenderest touch belongs.”
It is evening, and the family party, young and old, are gathered on the porch, talking over the pleasures of the past day, whilst Ranger lies close at Mr. Harwood’s feet.
Mr. Haven remarks, “That’s a grand mastiff, Fred, but what has become of my old friend Tiger? How much he used to enjoy your yachting parties! How his tail showed the interest he took in our fishing, and how frantic he became whenever a fine fish was drawn on board! He was a nice fellow, I should like to see him again.”
“His disappearance has never fully been accounted for,” replied Mr. Harwood. “Perhaps, Artie, you and Daisy have never heard how Ranger came to us?”
“No, sir,” eagerly answered the children. “Is there a story about it?”
“You may be sure, youngsters,” Papa laughingly interposed, “that where there’s a dog there’s sure to be a tale.”
“Yes, sir,” quickly added Jem, “but it isn’t every dog that leaves a tale behind him.”
“You are right, Jem, I yield the point, and ask the company’s pardon for keeping the tale hanging.”
“Your Aunt Gertrude,” continued Mr. Havens, “has a brother, an Army Surgeon, who was at one time stationed at a Florida fort close by the Everglades.”
“Papa,” said Kit, “hadn’t you better ex[Pg 236]plain to the children what Everglades are?—one time I didn’t know myself.”
“That is right, Kit. There is a part of Florida, as large, I should think, as the whole State of Massachusetts, which is covered with water. Tall grass and reeds grow up in this water, and occasionally small islands are found, covered with trees and tangled vines. Some of our most beautiful flowering vines, such as the Wisteria, with its purple clusters of blossoms, which you see hanging from the posts of our back piazza, and the sweet-scented jessamine, are brought from those islands which are homes for snakes, alligators, wild boars, and wolves. Indians used often to hide themselves in these Everglades, and come down in their canoes by night and attack the neighboring settlements. In order to protect the lives of the people near, the[Pg 237] United States erected a fort close by, and the soldiers were constantly sent out from it into these Everglades to hunt out the Indians. It was soon found that some other plan must be adopted, for soldiers died rapidly, as those places were filled with a very unhealthy atmosphere called miasma, much like that of the jungles you have heard of in India, where the only paths are those which the wild beasts make on their way to find water. Wolves and tigers hide there in the dark thickets to spring out upon travellers, and huge boa-constrictors hang from the branches of the trees ready to spring down, wind themselves around their victims, and crush them instantly.
“There are fierce wild animals in the Florida Everglades, but the atmosphere is just about as fatal to life.
“The soldiers having died in great numbers, large mastiffs, or bloodhounds, were sent in the Everglades to do the work, but the hounds would not serve the soldiers. Perhaps the Indians made friends with them, or they liked the wild life and plenteous game of the glades; however that may be, the hounds all disappeared, and nothing was heard of them for a long time, excepting an occasional baying during the stillness of the night.
“One day, one of them, this very Ranger, came back to the fort, terribly mangled, his body torn open by the polished tusks of the wild boar, and, with what seemed human reason, the poor, suffering creature made his way directly up to the surgeon’s quarters, and presented his case to Uncle Lee, who always had a great fondness for animals of every sort. He examined the wound care[Pg 239]fully, and found it would be necessary to sew it up at once; but this his brother officers entreated him not to attempt. They said it would be foolhardy, for at the first prick of the needle, the animal would, of course, turn upon the hand that gave the pain, and fearfully injure him.
“Uncle Lee hesitated; but the dog looked up piteously in his face, as if saying,
“‘You are my only hope,’ and he could not resist that look of entreaty.
“The officers, seeing he was determined, surrounded the animal; one stood with loaded musket aimed at his head, so that at the first attempt on his part to injure the surgeon, he could shoot him instantly.
“It must have been a thrilling scene, that savage bloodhound standing so patient, Uncle Lee, with face white as a sheet, and his friends[Pg 240] silent from dread and terror. An officer present, wrote me of it in these words:
“‘Only for a moment was Lee’s face pale, and then the man was forgotten in the surgeon. Moment after moment the sharp steel pierced the hound’s quivering flesh. The animal was mute, only once turning his head toward the surgeon; but there was no need of pistol then; he had only turned to lick the surgeon’s hand, as if to encourage him to proceed. He remained at the fort till the wound had perfectly healed, and then, one day, disappeared, to the great grief of all the garrison, with whom he had become a great pet.’
“He was gone about two days, and on the evening of the second, knocked with his huge paw at the surgeon’s door, lay down by his bed, and from that hour has been his most devoted servant. The soldiers thought he must[Pg 241] have gone back to the Everglades to settle up some old debts, and then returned for a quiet life of devotion to his kind friend.
“When Lee came to visit us, the hound took a great fancy to your Aunt Gertrude, and was content to let his master go to Europe without him. Think how that creature, once so bloodthirsty, boys, has been changed by kind treatment, and then tell me what there is that kindness and gentleness cannot accomplish. He guards our little Bessie’s cradle carefully now, and licks her soft cheeks with gentle affection.”
“But, Papa,” broke in the two boys, “you mustn’t forget to tell about Tiger’s disappearance.”
“You must know,” continued Papa, “our old dog had never had a rival in the dog line, and when he came in the house the day of[Pg 242] Uncle Lee’s arrival, and found Ranger, quite at home in the hall, surrounded by the children, all admiring and stroking his glossy skin, a look of anger and great disgust came over his face, and then he ran quickly out of the house, across the lawn, and out of the gate, up on the public road. In vain the tender-hearted children followed him, calling him to come back; he never once turned.
“He has been gone now two years, and we have not yet discovered his home; but very often we see him watching us through the fence, and if the children are on the way to the shore, and Ranger is not with them, he will follow them, but always remaining in the lane, and keeping the fence between him and them.”
“Except once, Papa, you remember—don’t you?”
“Yes, children; I shall not soon forget that day. Kit and Larry Holmes, a neighbor’s child, were launching their toy boats down in the little cove yonder. Kit had been up to the house to get his knife, and scrambling hastily down the steep bank, lost his footing and fell several feet, striking his head upon a sharp rock.
“Larry was a timid boy, and was so terrified by the sight of his companion lying as if dead, and covered with blood, that he ran away as far and fast as possible.
“Tiger must have been watching near, for Mamma, sitting in her room, was startled by a heavy knocking at her door, and opening it, found old Tiger, leaping about as if to show his joy; but when she stooped to fondle him, he impatiently broke from her and started for the hall-door, looking back to see if she fol[Pg 244]lowed, and if she stopped, he pulled her dress, and seemed imploring. Suddenly Mamma remembered she had seen from her window Kit and Larry going toward the shore with their gayly-painted ship. Just then her eye caught sight of the tiny vessel wrecked on a small rock, a little way out, but her heart sank as she saw no trace, heard no sound of the little captains.
“Presently she saw Tiger plunge down a steep bank, and following his lead, found poor Kit lying insensible on the shore, covered with blood.
“Your aunt lifted the boy’s head upon her lap, and bathed it with cold water, then looked about in hope some one might be on the shore whom she might hail to come and help her. No one was in sight; then suddenly came the thought, as she noticed Tiger whining and pulling at the boy’s jacket.
“‘Why, Tiger is of the St. Bernard breed—dogs trained to carry on their backs travellers exhausted in their efforts to cross the snowy Alps—I will try to make him of use.’
“The dog stood perfectly quiet whilst she laid the boy upon his back, and then off they started, Tiger walking slowly along the shore till he came to a gentle slope of the bank, and then he turned toward home.
“At the door stood the pony-cart, with Jem and his sisters, just returned from the village; so pony’s head was instantly turned toward Bristol to summon Dr. Jones and myself.
“In the confusion, Tiger was for a moment forgotten, and when remembered, the most careful search could not reveal his whereabouts. He still visits the lane, and[Pg 246] thrusts his nose through the bars, or follows the children to the shore, but no amount of coaxing can persuade him to come into the lawn.”
As Mr. Harwood finished his account of Tiger’s disappearance, a rattling of wheels on the gravel road was heard, and from behind the house appeared a most distressed-looking old man, with slouched hat drawn over his eyes, and coat and pants hanging in tatters about him, dragging a wagon in which was seated an immense gray cat, with a dark-brown tail dragging over the wagon’s back. Upon her head was a broad-frilled cap, and green goggles hid her eyes. The old cat bowed, first on one side, and then on the other, waving as she did so a lighted torch she held in her hand.
The man halted in the centre of the lawn,[Pg 247] and sang, with cracked voice, a few verses of a comic song, and suddenly ended with a loud “Ha! ha!” and jumped right over pussy-cat, wagon, and lighted torch. Then came such a whizzing, buzzing, crackling, and banging, as is seldom heard either side of the Fourth of July, whilst the old man dashed wildly about, showers of sparks flying in all directions from his coat and hat.
Rosie and Jack would have been frightened had they not been safely held on Papa’s lap, and Aunt Gertrude, who had her arm tightly clasped about Charlie Leonard, had whispered some words which had made him quite ready to join the general clapping that followed, for was not the giant, gray puss, with long, black tail, our own “Ned,” his face covered with a fur mask, and body by an old fur cape, whilst the long tail was[Pg 248] Mamma’s boa, which the saucy rogue had helped himself to. Sarah laughed till the tears run down her cheeks, as, seated upon the carriage-block, she tells Charlotte and Nan,
“How this werry night she had hunted for them glasses from Dan to Beersheby, and had she a had ’em she should have ’spied her Sunday stay-at-home-from-meeting cap was a-missin’. But if it gives them young uns a saffishfacthun, as is got such tender hearts allers, Sarah Jenkins’ll not say the first word if the cap be used up entirely. For if young folks can’t take their liberties on the Fourth of July, she’d like, for one, to know what freedom was fought for, anyway.”
Papa explained that Jem, the man so “tattered and torn,” had privately fastened pin-wheels on his hat, and sewed several packs[Pg 249] of fire-crackers to the lining of the coat, and pussy-cat had taken good care that when he leaped over her, his coat-tails should brush against the lighted torch and give a voice to the many squibs.
“The world of waters is our home,
And merry boys are we.”
At breakfast the next morning, Mr. Havens said, “Children, I have still another pleasure to announce to you!”
“Oh, what can it be! What can come next?” cried they.
“You are to have a couple of hours more for your country frolics, and then, just think of it, this kind Uncle Fred proposes to take us all, on our homeward journey, in his yacht, as far as Rocky Point.”
“Oh, isn’t that beautiful, elegant, splendid, delicious?” chimed in many voices; and May[Pg 251] slipped her hand into her father’s as she whispered—
“Oh, Papa, if we only but just could, too!”
“Well, little daughter,” he replied, “you only just are to, all of you, with Mamma to keep you steady. No, boys, no clapping,—you must quietly enjoy the fact.”
The boys obeyed their father’s words, but somehow the soft eggs in their glasses needed an unusual amount of violent spoon-stirring, and Mr. Havens heard little Alice, his next neighbor, repeating to herself, over and over again, one of Kit’s favorite couplets—
“Says Aaron to Moses, let’s cut off our noses,
Says Moses to Aaron, it’s the fashion to wear ’em.”
in order to restrain her impatience, for the child’s appetite had quite left her, when she[Pg 252] heard of the good time that was coming, and breakfast seemed like such a long meal.
“Those boys never know when to stop,” she said to herself, more than once.
The boys did “stop,” however, and directly after were seen trooping down the lawn to the shore, for a boat launch. May, Gracie, and Daisy were soon busy at work, making wreaths with Harry’s help, to deck the pretty lamb, whilst Alice, with Mamma’s permission, carried Rosie off to Farmer Shedd’s, to see the Donkeys in the old stable, first stopping to fill their aprons with fresh clover and buttercups. Rosie had never seen donkeys, and when, through the half-opened stable door, the pair thrust out their shaggy necks, and pricked up their long ears, Rosie was tempted to retreat; but when she heard Alice’s petting words, as she stroked the peaceable ani[Pg 253]mals, and saw how daintily they ate all the nice grass she had brought, without once offering to bite the white apron she held out, Rosie grew bolder, and emptied many times the little cart of its load of grass, which shy Tommy Shedd brought to them, and fed the good donkeys, even venturing to pat their shaggy manes and tell the homely animals what “regular beauties” they were.
Alice and Rosie visit Farmer Shedd’s Donkeys. Page 253.
The walk home didn’t prove a pleasant one, for, in an unlucky moment, Charlotte had dressed Rosie in a scarlet flannel sack, because the morning air was fresh and chill, and this very gay sack attracted a Turkey Gobbler’s eye, as he strutted through Farmer Shedd’s yard, and immediately he gobbled out a warning to Rosie to leave the premises, and then started off in hot pursuit. Alice saw his Lordship’s meaning, and began to run,[Pg 254] pulling Rosie so hard to get her off the Gobbler’s grounds, that roly-poly Rosie tripped her foot over a pan of chicken’s food and fell upon the ground, screaming with terror.
Then shy Tommy Shedd showed what stuff he was made of, for, catching up an old broom, he gave the wrathful turkey such a chase, that he flew on the high branch of a cherry tree, and there gobbled out to his children’s children the tale of his rights and wrongs, whilst Alice picked Rosie up and ran with her to the shelter of the home nest for comfort and cleansing.
Two hours later, the Psyche gracefully glides out of its little harbor at the foot of the lawn, and spreads her trim sails to coax the strong breeze to help her bear her merry party fairly out to the beautiful Narragansett Bay.
Yacht decks do not afford much space for young people to run about; but the boys found a great deal to interest them in watching the steersman managing the sails and rudder, as a rider his gay steed’s motions, whilst the good-natured sailor spun many a yarn to while away the time. Artie thought it great fun to hail the passing boats and receive salutes in return; but the crowning bliss was when, gliding along in a steamer’s wake, the spray showered them well, and drove them, screaming with laughter, to the little cabin, whence they were driven out again by their sisters, who were dressing their dolls for a wedding at sea; for Daisy and May had agreed that, as they were so soon to be parted, “it would be a comfort to know their dolls were relations to one another, and even if the bride left for New York the next day, letters could[Pg 256] be written, and perhaps an occasional visit made, if either pined for the other.”
Jem was presently “whispered” down to perform the ceremony, for the girls all were agreed if Kit, Ned, or Artie got an inkling of what was going on, they were sure to turn everything into fun, and Gracie and May had an instinctive idea that, somehow, getting married was not a joke, but a very, very serious thing. Daisy had herself been with Mamma at a church-wedding in New York, where some of the bridal guests shed tears, so she thought that was the proper thing, and instructed the girls to do the same, taking upon herself the duty of wiping Jack’s and Charlie Leonard’s eyes, who, as privileged guests, were allowed to be present, but were sure Daisy said, “to have no pocket-handkerchiefs.”
Whilst the wedding was taking place, the boys, on deck, attempted a game of Jackstraws, but in the midst of it, whilst Kit was excitedly declaring that “Artie’s hand shook the least bit in the world,” and Artie as warmly contending—
“It was only the tilting of the yacht,” a fresh breeze coolly settled the hot little dispute by whisking away the straws, and provoking a merry laugh.
The gay party was just in the midst of their luncheon when the tower of Rocky Point appeared, and very soon the Psyche lay beside the long wharf, the steersman its only occupant, whilst its chattering passengers were climbing in advance of their elders up the steep hill path, at the side of the hotel, in search of that greatest of diversions, the “Monkey’s Cage.” An excursion boat had just landed[Pg 258] hundreds of pleasure-seekers, and they, too, with few exceptions, crowded about the huge wire house. Red-faced Germans with wives, children of all sizes and ages, and huge baskets of provisions, Irish military men, with shamrock on their caps, and sweetheart or wife on one arm, and the always present basket on the other, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Portuguese, all crowding around, chattering their various languages—made this inclosure a very Tower of Babel. It seemed queer enough that the objects of so much attention should seem so utterly unconscious of it all. There sat those little specimens of mock humanity, nibbling the nuts thrown at them, combing their short hair before their looking-glasses, or climbing up huge poles to tumble down again, making grimaces at the lookers on, or slyly jumping up to bite the tip of a fellow monkey’s[Pg 259] tail, hanging invitingly from the perch above. Week after week, month after month, year after year, crowds gather about the monkey play-ground,—rich and poor, old and young, grave and gay. The middle-aged college professor, wending his way to the cool groves, where he may sit to read or think, fanned by soft sea breezes, and refreshed by odors of fresh foliage and sweet wild flowers,—halts here, and then goes smiling on his way to wonder “whether monkeys are not, perhaps, his cousins after all.”
Gay city damsels gather up their flounces, as they pass the dusty throng, but are seen to cast a stealthy look, exclaiming as they do so—
“What can people see so fascinating in monkeys!” and yet these same monkeys daily attract to their performances, crowds of spec[Pg 260]tators, and win shouts of applause on every side.
We have only two hours to stay at Rocky Point, so we take off our hats and wave our adieu to the chattering Jackos, and wend our way to peep in the cave so gloomy, and thence to the inclined railway for a ride in the little passenger car; now we stop for a moment to see the dancing Bear uncork and drink his bottle of soda water; thence a hurried look at the cage of birds, with their glorious plumage,—but we cannot stop, for the younger children are clamoring loudly for a “ride on the steam-horses,” so we hasten through the field to the inclosed yard, where a dozen pairs of ponies, large and small, stand ready harnessed for action. Hurrying through the little gate we lay down our pile of clean ten-cent pieces,—seize our riding-whips, mount the gay ponies, then[Pg 261] a bell rings, the engine puffs, and away gallop the pairs of ponies with their shouting riders. Papa and his companions, sitting on a rustic bench near, find even the beautiful water-view has less attraction for them than the bright faces of the ten young riders, waving their whips, as they catch sight of the Papas and Mammas. Nan and Charlotte press close to the scene of action, resting their chins on the pickets which guard the enclosure, looking as if they, too, would fain be young again. Soon Papa gives the signal that it is nearly boat hour, and very reluctantly ponies and steam engine are left behind, and all wend their way to the great piazza to watch the steamboat’s approach, and as it comes puffing to the wharf, the young faces lengthen as they bid “good-by,” and utter hopes of another speedy meeting; then some climb down the little ladder to the[Pg 262] yacht’s deck, and the rest of the party press with the multitude through the gate, and thence to the saloon of the Morning Star, on their return voyage to Providence.
It was a pretty well-fagged and drowsy party that tumbled into the old family carriage that waited on the dock, and tumbled out again as the horses stopped at the door of the Funny old house in Funny street, and soon after, too tired to enjoy the nursery tea, tumbled into their little beds to dream of bright green meadows, sandy parlors, clam-bakes, and chattering monkeys.
“It was nine years back, or more—if I don’t forget;
But as to the children, Fannie, they’re all about me yet.
Often they come to the door, in a pleasant kind of dream,
They come and sit by my chair, they hover about my bed,—
I am not always certain if they be alive or dead.”
Aunt Emma came into the garden on the last morning of the children’s visit, and calling them into the little arbor, said,
“I feel sorry, dears, to interrupt your merry games, but I think, as you are to travel all the afternoon, it is best you should rest now, so I propose sitting with you for a quiet talk, and that you may remain in[Pg 264] the garden till the last moment, Celia will have lunch for us under the trees.”
“Oh! isn’t that nice, Auntie? We don’t mind one bit giving up, I Spy, and Lady Queen Annie she sits in the Sun, she sends you three letters and prays you read one,” cried Artie; and little Bear looking up eagerly said,
“Would it be too much trouble, Auntie, for you to tell us a good-bye story?”
“Certainly not, darling, but what shall it be about? You shall choose, Harry.”
“Well, I think I’d a little rather hear a story about animals than most anything I can think of.”
“Have I ever told you about Old Whitey?”
“No, indeed,” cry all, “will you do it now?”
“Some years ago, I went to board for a few weeks in a quiet mountain village in Connecticut. The Farmer’s wife, with whom I stayed, was a simple body who loved her cows, pigs and chickens next to her boys; but above all of their out-of-door pets Old Whitey Cow reigned chief. One day, I went into the barnyard, with Mrs. May, to watch the milking. Whitey’s turn always came first, but for some wise reason of her own, that morning, Madam Whitey kept out of the way, till her patient Mistress could wait no longer, so called Speckled Sides to come to her. Just as the white stream began to flow into the shining pail, Old Whitey appeared, looking very much excited. Trotting briskly up to Speckled Sides, she pushed her away with her horns, kicked over the pail of milk, and then stood demurely before her Mistress, as[Pg 266] if she had only done the most proper thing in the world.
“One rainy morning, as I pushed my window-curtain aside, I saw Tom May and his Brother coming up the lane, with a large umbrella over their heads, from under which Whitey’s broad flanks and bushy tail appeared. Mrs. May told me whenever the boys came into the pasture with an umbrella, Whitey would come trotting up and put her head under its shelter, and walk along as the village people used to say, ‘just like folks.’
“One day the good old creature strayed away from home and visited the village, where she surprised a fine city lady who was boarding there for the Summer, by suddenly thrusting her head under her silk sun-umbrella and showing her intention to join in the promenade. When the lady indignantly[Pg 267] stamped her foot and scolded, Old Whitey retreated as if subdued, but, a moment after, ran up behind her, thrust her horns under the umbrella, and, to the great amusement of the lookers on, and greatly to the indignation of the umbrella’s owner, bore it triumphantly off through the principal street of the village.
“Fancy the surprise of the May family, when they saw Old Whitey coming up the lane, with her head sheltered by a silk umbrella through which her horns were sticking.
“Mrs. May tells another story about her favorite’s intelligence. She had an Irish girl living with her, who had a lover, a stable boy, living near. One day Mike visited his Biddie as she was preparing to milk Whitey, and Biddie became so engaged in her talk that she forgot her business.
“In vain Whitey whisked her bushy tail in[Pg 268] the milk-maid’s face; Biddie had eyes and ears for no one but Mike. At last the impatient animal turned slowly around to see what was the trouble, and immediately rushed up to poor Mike, and fairly drove him from the barn yard, then took her place before the astonished Biddie, who did not need to be again reminded of her duty.”
That is the end of the Whitey story, and there is Papa coming to join us, and Hugh follows with the table.
“Oh, isn’t this a regular Pic-Nic,” said the children, as they gathered around the little table which Celia had taken pains should be covered with her daintiest dishes.
“And Auntie dear,” said thoughtful Daisy, “I don’t think we can ever thank you enough for giving us such a lovely time. I don’t think any children ever had so much pleasure.”
“I wish,” said little Jack, with mouth full, as usual, “I wish there was out of doors in New York ’cept the Park.”
In spite of the parting so near, that was a pleasant meal. The old apple tree spread its branches protectingly over the young heads, choice flowers perfumed the air about them, and Robins, Locusts and Crickets formed an Orchestra to supply sweet music.
Papa’s watch at last told the parting near, and very sad were the little faces that Aunt Emma saw looking back from the open carriage, at the Funny House on Funny Street.
“God bless and keep my darlings,” the old Auntie murmured, “and bring us all to meet one day in that bright land where partings are unknown.”
Then the kind old Aunt, taking Charlie Leonard with her, went to see a poor sick[Pg 270] girl, and whilst she spoke words of comfort to the sufferer, the ache left her own heart, and all was peace and joy within.
Thrusting aside the Library curtains at 310 Madison Avenue, for we fain would have another glance at the Little Menagerie, we see them all gathered about Mamma, all so eager to tell of the rare pleasures they have enjoyed, and all so happy to be at home again, that there is no room in their young hearts for regrets for past pleasures.
Farewell, little folk! The Funny Old House on Funny Street no longer reëchoes with your merry voices and frolicsome steps, but the sunshine you brought there still seems to linger in its every apartment, but most of all in the loving hearts you have left behind.