Part 3 out of 5
the riot at once. They had never seen her roused before, and the
effect was tremendous; also comical, for she drove the whole flock
of boys out of the room like an indignant little hen defending her
brood. They all went as meekly as sheep; the small lads fled from
the house precipitately, but the three elder ones only retired to the
next room, and remained there hoping for a chance to explain and
apologise, and so appease the irate young lady, who had suddenly
turned the tables and clattered them about their ears.
As they waited, they observed her proceedings through the
half-open door, and commented upon them briefly but
expressively, feeling quite bowed down with remorse at the harm
they had innocently done.
"She's put the room to rights in a jiffey. What jacks we were to let
those dogs in and kick up such a row," observed Steve, after a
"The poor old Worm turns as if she was treading on him instead of
cuddling him like a pussy cat. Isn't he cross, though?" added
Charlie, as Mac was heard growling about his "confounded head."
"She will manage him; but it's mean in us to rumple him up and
then leave her to smooth him down. I'd go and help, but I don't
know how," said Archie. looking much depressed, for he was a
conscientious fellow, and blamed himself for his want of thought.
"No, more do I. Odd, isn't it, what a knack women have for taking
care of sick folks?" and Charlie fell a-musing over this undeniable
"She has been ever so good to Mac," began Steve, in a
"Better than his own brother, hey?" cut in Archie, finding relief for
his own regret in the delinquencies of another.
"Well, you needn't preach; you didn't any of you do any more, and
you might have, for Mac likes you better than he does me. I always
fret him, he says, and it isn't my fault if I am a quiddle," protested
Steve, in self-defence.
"We have all been selfish and neglected him, so we won't fight
about it, but try and do better," said Archie, generously taking
more than his share of blame, for he had been less inattentive than
either of the others.
"Rose has stood by him like a good one, and it's no wonder he likes
to have her round best. I should myself if I was down on my luck
as he is," put in Charlie, feeling that he really had not done "the
little thing" justice.
"I'll tell you what it is, boys we haven't been half good enough to
Rose, and we've got to make it up to her somehow," said Archie,
who had a very manly sense of honour about paying his debts,
even to a girl.
"I'm awfully sorry I made fun of her doll when Jamie lugged it out;
and I called her 'baby bunting' when she cried over the dead kitten.
Girls are such geese sometimes, I can't help it," said Steve,
confessing his transgressions handsomely, and feeling quite ready
to atone for them if he only knew how.
"I'll go down on my knees and beg her pardon for treating her as if
she was a child. Don't it make her mad, though? Come to think of
it, she's only two years or so younger than I am. But she is so small
and pretty, she always seems like a dolly to me," and the Prince
looked down from his lofty height of five feet five as if Rose was
indeed a pygmy beside him.
"That dolly has got a real good little heart, and a bright mind of her
own, you'd better believe. Mac says she understands some things
quicker than he can, and mother thinks she is an uncommonly nice
girl, though she don't know all creation. You needn't put on airs,
Charlie, though you are a tall one, for Rose likes Archie better than
you; she said she did because he treated her respectfully."
"Steve looks as fierce as a game-cock; but don't you get excited,
my son, for it won't do a bit of good. Of course, everybody likes
the Chief best; they ought to, and I'll punch their heads if they
don't. So calm yourself, Dandy, and mend your own manners
before you come down on other people's."
Thus the Prince with great dignity and perfect good nature, while
Archie looked modestly gratified with the flattering opinions of his
kinsfolk, and Steve subsided, feeling he had done his duty as a
cousin and a brother. A pause ensued, during which Aunt Jane
appeared in the other room, accompanied by a tea-tray
sumptuously spread, and prepared to feed her big nestling, as that
was a task she allowed no one to share with her.
"If you have a minute to spare before you go, child, I wish you'd
just make Mac a fresh shade; this has got a berry stain on it, and he
must be tidy, for he is to go out to-morrow if it is a cloudy day,"
said Mrs. Jane, spreading toast in a stately manner, while Mac
slopped his tea about without receiving a word of reproof.
"Yes, aunt," answered Rose, so meekly that the boys could hardly
believe it could be the same voice which had issued the stern
command, "Out of this room, every one of you!" not very long ago.
They had not time to retire, without unseemly haste, before she
walked into the parlour and sat down at the work-table without a
word. It was funny to see the look the three tall lads cast at the
little person sedately threading a needle with green silk. They all
wanted to say something expressive of repentance, but no one
knew how to begin, and it was evident, from the prim expression
of Rose's face, that she intended to stand upon her dignity till they
had properly abased themselves. The pause was becoming very
awkward, when Charlie, who possessed all the persuasive arts of a
born scapegrace, went slowly down upon his knees before her,
beat his breast, and said, in a heart-broken tone
"Please forgive me this time, and I'll never do so any more."
It was very hard to keep sober, but Rose managed it and answered
"It is Mac's pardon you should ask, not mine, for you haven't hurt
me, and I shouldn't wonder if you had him a great deal, with all
that light and racket, and talk about things that only worry him."
"Do you really think we've hurt him, cousin?" asked Archie, with a
troubled look, while Charlie settled down in a remorseful heap
among the table legs.
"Yes, I do, for he has got a raging headache, and his eyes are as red
as as this emery bag," answered Rose, solemnly plunging her
needle into a fat flannel strawberry.
Steve tore his hair, metaphorically speaking, for he clutched his
cherished top-knot, and wildly dishevelled it, as if that was the
heaviest penance he could inflict upon himself at such short
notice. Charlie laid himself out flat, melodramatically begging
someone to take him away and hang him; but Archie, who felt
worst of all, said nothing except to vow within himself that he
would read to Mac till his own eyes were as red as a dozen emery
Seeing the wholesome effects of her treatment upon these culprits,
Rose felt that she might relent and allow them a gleam of hope.
She found it impossible to help trampling upon the prostrate
Prince a little, in words at least, for he had hurt her feelings oftener
than he knew; so she gave him a thimble-pie on the top of his
head, and said, with an air of an infinitely superior being
"Don't be silly, but get up, and I'll tell you something much better
to do than sprawling on the floor and getting all over lint."
Charlie obediently sat himself upon a hassock at her feet; the other
sinners drew near to catch the words of wisdom about to fall from
her lips, and Rose, softened by this gratifying humility, addressed
them in her most maternal tone.
"Now, boys, if you really want to be good to Mac, you can do it in
this way. Don't keep talking about things he can't do, or go and tell
what fun you have had batting your ridiculous balls about. Get
some nice book and read quietly; cheer him up about school, and
offer to help him study by and by; you can do that better than I,
because I'm only a girl, and don't learn Greek and Latin and all
sorts of headachy stuff."
"Yes, but you can do heaps of things better than we can; you've
proved that," said Archie, with an approving look that delighted
Rose, though she could not resist giving Charlie one more rebuke,
by saying, with a little bridling of the head, and a curl of the lip
that wanted to smile instead
"I'm glad you think so, though I am a 'queer chicken."'
This scathing remark caused the Prince to hide his face for shame,
and Steve to erect his head in the proud consciousness that this
shot was not meant for him. Archie laughed, and Rose, seeing a
merry blue eye winking at her from behind two brown hands, gave
Charlie's ear a friendly tweak, and extended the olive-branch of
"Now we'll all be good, and plan nice things for poor Mac," she
said, smiling so graciously that the boys felt as if the sun had
suddenly burst out from behind a heavy cloud and was shining
with great brilliancy.
The storm had cleared the air, and quite a heavenly calm
succeeded, during which plans of a most varied and surprising sort
were laid, for everyone burned to make noble sacrifices upon the
shrine of "poor Mac," and Rose was the guiding star to whom the
others looked with most gratifying submission. Of course, this
elevated state of things could not endure long, but it was very nice
while it lasted, and left an excellent effect upon the minds of all
when the first ardour had subsided.
"There, that's ready for to-morrow, and I do hope it will be
cloudy," said Rose, as she finished off the new shade, the progress
of which the boys had watched with interest.
"I'd bespoken an extra sunny day, but I'll tell the clerk of the
weather to change it. He's an obliging fellow, and he'll attend to it,
so make yourself easy," said Charlie, who had become quite perky
"It is very easy for you to joke, but how would you like to wear a
blinder like that for weeks and weeks, sir?" and Rose quenched his
rising spirits by slipping the shade over his eyes, as he still sat on
the cushion at her feet.
"It's horrid! Take it off, take it off! I don't wonder the poor old boy
has the blues with a thing like that on"; and Charlie sat looking at
what seemed to him an instrument of torture, with such a sober
face that Rose took it gently away, and went in to bid Mac
"I shall go home with her, for it is getting darkish, and she is rather
timid," said Archie, forgetting that he had often laughed at this
"I think I might, for she's taking care of my brother," put in Steve,
asserting his rights.
"Let's all go, that will please her"; proposed Charlie, with a burst
of gallantry which electrified his mates.
"We will!" they said with one voice, and they did, to Rose's great
surprise and secret contentment; though Archie had all the care of
her, for the other two were leaping fences, running races, and
having wrestling matches all the way down.
They composed themselves on reaching the door, however; shook
hands cordially all round, made their best bows, and retired with
great elegance and dignity, leaving Rose to say to herself, with
girlish satisfaction, as she went in
"Now, that is the way I like to be treated."
Chapter 13 - Cosey Corner
Vacation was over, the boys went back to school, and poor Mac
was left lamenting. He was out of the darkened room now, and
promoted to blue goggles, through which he took a gloomy view of
life, as might have been expected; for there was nothing he could
do but wander about, and try to amuse himself without using his
eyes. Anyone who has ever been condemned to that sort of
idleness knows how irksome it is, and can understand the state of
mind which caused Mac to say to Rose in a desperate tone one day
"Look here, if you don't invent some new employment or
amusement for me, I shall knock myself on the head as sure as you
Rose flew to Uncle Alec for advice, and he ordered both patient
and nurse to the mountains for a month, with Aunt Jessie and
Jamie as escort. Pokey and her mother joined the party, and one
bright September morning six very happy-looking people were
aboard the express train for Portland two smiling mammas, laden
with luncheon baskets and wraps; a pretty young girl with a bag of
books on her arm; a tall thin lad with his hat over his eyes; and two
small children, who sat with their short legs straight out before
them, and their chubby faces beaming with the first speechless
delight of "truly travelling."
An especially splendid sunset seemed to have been prepared to
welcome them when, after a long day's journey, they drove into a
wide, green door-yard, where a white colt, a red cow, two cats,
four kittens, many hens, and a dozen people, old and young, were
gaily disporting themselves. Everyone nodded and smiled in the
friendliest manner, and a lively old lady kissed the new-comers all
round, as she said heartily
"Well, now, I'm proper glad to see you! Come right in and rest, and
we'll have tea in less than no time, for you must be tired. Lizzie,
you show the folks upstairs; Kitty, you fly round and help father in
with the trunks; and Jenny and I will have the table all ready by the
time you come down. Bless the dears, they want to go see the
pussies, and so they shall!"
The three pretty daughters did "fly round," and everyone felt at
home at once, all were so hospitable and kind. Aunt Jessie had
raptures over the home-made carpets, quilts and quaint furniture;
Rose could not keep away from the windows, for each framed a
lovely picture; and the little folks made friends at once with the
other children, who filled their arms with chickens and kittens, and
did the honours handsomely.
The toot of a horn called all to supper, and a goodly party,
including six children besides the Camp-bells, assembled in the
long dining-room, armed with mountain appetites and the gayest
spirits. It was impossible for anyone to be shy or sober, for such
gales of merriment arose they blew the starch out of the stiffest,
and made the saddest jolly. Mother Atkinson, as all called their
hostess, was the merriest there, and the busiest; for she kept flying
up to wait on the children, to bring out some new dish, or to banish
the live stock, who were of such a social turn that the colt came
into the entry and demanded sugar; the cats sat about in people's
laps, winking suggestively at the food; and speckled hens cleared
the kitchen floor of crumbs, as they joined in the chat with a
Everybody turned out after tea to watch the sunset till all the lovely
red was gone, and mosquitoes wound their shrill horns to sound
the retreat. The music of an organ surprised the new-comers, and
in the parlor they found Father Atkinson playing sweetly on the
little instrument made by himself. All the children gathered about
him, and, led by the tuneful sisters, sang prettily till Pokey fell
asleep behind the door, and Jamie gaped audibly right in the
middle of his favourite
"Coo," said the little doves: "Coo," said she,
"All in the top of the old pine-tree."
The older travellers, being tired, went to "bye low" at the same
time, and slept like tops in home-spun sheets, on husk mattresses
made by Mother Atkinson, who seemed to have put some soothing
powder among them, so deep and sweet was the slumber that
Next day began the wholesome out-of-door life, which works such
wonders with tired minds and feeble bodies. The weather was
perfect, and the mountain air made the children as frisky as young
lambs; while the elders went about smiling at one another, and
saying, "Isn't it splendid?" Even Mac, the "slow coach," was seen
to leap over a fence as if he really could not help it; and when
Rose ran after him with his broad-brimmed hat, he made the
spirited proposal to go into the woods and hunt for a catamount.
Jamie and Pokey were at once enrolled in the Cosey Corner Light
Infantry a truly superb company, composed entirely of officers, all
wearing cocked hats, carrying flags, waving swords, or beating
drums. It was a spectacle to stir the dullest soul when this gallant
band marched out of the yard in full regimentals, with Captain
Dove a solemn, big-headed boy of eleven issuing his orders with
the gravity of a general, and his Falstaffian regiment obeying them
with more docility than skill. The little Snow children did very
well, and Lieutenant Jack Dove was fine to see; so was Drummer
Frank, the errand-boy of the house, as he rub-a-dub-dubbed with
all his heart and drumsticks. Jamie had "trained" before, and was
made a colonel at once; but Pokey was the best of all, and called
forth a spontaneous burst of applause from the spectators as she
brought up the rear, her cocked hat all over one eye, her flag
trailing over her shoulder, and her wooden sword straight up in the
air; her face beaming and every curl bobbing with delight as her
fat legs tottered in the vain attempt to keep step manfully.
Mac and Rose were picking blackberries in the bushes beside the
road when the soldiers passed without seeing them, and they
witnessed a sight that was both pretty and comical. A little farther
on was one of the family burial spots so common in those parts,
and just this side of it Captain Fred Dove ordered his company to
halt, explaining his reason for so doing in the following words
"That's a graveyard, and it's proper to muffle the drums and lower
the flags as we go by, and we'd better take off our hats, too; it's
more respectable, I think."
"Isn't that cunning of the dears?" whispered Rose, as the little troop
marched slowly by to the muffled roll of the drums, every flag and
sword held low, all the little heads uncovered, and the childish
faces very sober as the leafy shadows flickered over them.
"Let's follow and see what they are after," proposed Mac, who
found sitting on the wall and being fed with blackberries luxurious
So they followed and heard the music grow lively, saw the banners
wave in the breeze again when the graveyard was passed, and
watched the company file into the dilapidated old church that
stood at the corner of three woodland roads. Presently the sound of
singing made the outsiders quicken their steps, and, stealing up,
they peeped in at one of the broken windows.
Captain Dove was up in the old wooden pulpit, gazing solemnly
down upon his company, who, having stacked their arms in the
porch, now sat in the bare pews singing a Sunday-school hymn
with great vigour and relish.
"Let us pray," said Captain Dove, with as much reverence as an
army chaplain; and, folding his hands, he repeated a prayer which
he thought all would know an excellent little prayer, but not
exactly appropriate to the morning, for it was
"Now I lay me down to sleep."
Everyone joined in saying it, and it was a pretty sight to see the
little creatures bowing their curly heads and lisping out the words
they knew so well. Tears came into Rose's eyes as she looked; Mac
took his hat off involuntarily, and then clapped it on again as if
ashamed of showing any feeling.
"Now I shall preach you a short sermon, and my text is, 'Little
children, love one another.' I asked mamma to give me one, and
she thought that would be good; so you all sit still and I'll preach it.
You mustn't whisper, Marion, but hear me. It means that we
should be good to each other, and play fair, and not quarrel as we
did this very day about the wagon. Jack can't always drive, and
needn't be mad because I like to go with Frank. Annette ought to
be horse sometimes and not always driver; and Willie may as well
make up his mind to let Marion build her house by his, for she will
do it, and he needn't fuss about it. Jamie seems to be a good boy,
but I shall preach to him if he isn't. No, Pokey, people don't kiss in
church or put their hats on. Now you must all remember what I tell
you, because I am the captain, and you should mind me."
Here Lieutenant Jack spoke right out in meeting with the
"Don't care if you are; you'd better mind yourself, and tell how you
took away my strap, and kept the biggest doughnut, and didn't
draw fair when we had the truck."
"Yes, and you slapped Frank; I saw you!" bawled Willie Snow,
bobbing up in his pew.
"And you took my book away and hid it 'cause I wouldn't go and
swing when you wanted me to," added Annette, the oldest of the
"I shan't build my house by Willie's if he don't want me to, so
now!" put in little Marion, joining the mutiny.
"I will tiss Dimmy! and I tored up my hat 'tause a pin picked me,"
shouted Pokey, regardless of Jamie's efforts to restrain her.
Captain Dove looked rather taken aback at this outbreak in the
ranks; but, being a dignified and calm personage, he quelled the
rising rebellion with great tact and skill, by saying, briefly
"We'll sing the last hymn; 'Sweet, sweet good-by' you all know
that, so do it nicely, and then we will go and have luncheon."
Peace was instantly restored, and a burst of melody drowned the
suppressed giggles of Rose and Mac, who found it impossible to
keep sober during the latter part of this somewhat remarkable
service. Fifteen minutes of repose rendered it a physical
impossibility for the company to march out as quietly as they had
marched in. I grieve to state that the entire troop raced home as
hard as they could pelt, and were soon skirmishing briskly over
their lunch, utterly oblivious of what Jamie (who had been much
impressed by the sermon) called "the captain's beautiful teck."
It was astonishing how much they all found to do at Cosey Corner;
and Mac, instead of lying in a hammock and being read to, as he
had expected, was busiest of all. He was invited to survey and lay
out Skeeterville, a town which the children were getting up in a
huckleberry pasture; and he found much amusement in planning
little roads, staking off house-lots, attending to the water-works,
and consulting with the "selectmen" about the best sites for public
buildings; for Mac was a boy still, in spite of his fifteen years and
his love of books.
Then he went fishing with a certain jovial gentleman from the
West; and though they seldom caught anything but colds, they had
great fun and exercise chasing the phantom trout they were bound
to have. Mac also developed a geological mania, and went tapping
about at rocks and stones, discoursing wisely of "strata, periods,
and fossil remains"; while Rose picked up leaves and lichens, and
gave him lessons in botany in return for his lectures on geology.
They led a very merry life; for the Atkinson girls kept up a sort of
perpetual picnic; and did it so capitally, that one was never tired of
it. So their visitors throve finely, and long before the month was
out it was evident that Dr. Alec had prescribed the right medicine
for his patients.
Chapter 14 - A Happy Birthday
The twelfth of October was Rose's birthday, but no one seemed to
remember that interesting fact, and she felt delicate about
mentioning it, so fell asleep the night before wondering if she
would have any presents. That question was settled early the next
morning, for she was awakened by a soft tap on her face, and
opening her eyes she beheld a little black and white figure sitting
on her pillow, staring at her with a pair of round eyes very like
blueberries, while one downy paw patted her nose to attract her
notice. It was Kitty Comet, the prettiest of all the pussies, and
Comet evidently had a mission to perform, for a pink bow adorned
her neck, and a bit of paper was pinned to it bearing the words,
"For Miss Rose, from Frank."
That pleased her extremely, and that was only the beginning of the
fun, for surprises and presents kept popping out in the most
delightful manner all through the day, the Atkinson girls being
famous jokers and Rose a favourite. But the best gift of all came
on the way to Mount Windy-Top, where it was decided to picnic in
honour of the great occasion. Three jolly loads set off soon after
breakfast, for everybody went, and everybody seemed bound to
have an extra good time, especially Mother Atkinson, who wore a
hat as broad-brimmed as an umbrella, and took the dinner-horn to
keep her flock from straying away.
"I'm going to drive auntie and a lot of the babies, so you must ride
the pony. And please stay behind us a good bit when we go to the
station, for a parcel is coming, and you are not to see it till
dinner-time. You won't mind, will you?" said Mac, in a
confidential aside during the wild flurry of the start.
"Not a bit," answered Rose. "It hurts my feelings very much to be
told to keep out of the way at any other time, but birthdays and
Christmas it is part of the fun to be blind and stupid, and poked
into corners. I'll be ready as soon as you are, Giglamps."
"Stop under the big maple till I call then you can't possibly see
anything," added Mac, as he mounted her on the pony his father
had sent up for his use. "Barkis" was so gentle and so "willin',"
however, that Rose was ashamed to be afraid to ride him; so she
had learned, that she might surprise Dr. Alec when she got home;
meantime she had many a fine canter "over the hills and far away"
with Mac, who preferred Mr. Atkinson's old Sorrel.
Away they went, and, coming to the red maple, Rose obediently
paused; but could not help stealing a glance in the forbidden
direction before the call came. Yes, there was a hamper going
under the seat, and then she caught sight of a tall man whom Mac
seemed to be hustling into the carriage in a great hurry. One look
was enough, and with a cry of delight, Rose was off down the road
as fast as Barkis could go.
"Now I'll astonish uncle," she thought. "I'll dash up in grand style,
and show him that I am not a coward, after all."
Fired by this ambition, she startled Barkis by a sharp cut, and still
more bewildered him by leaving him to his own guidance down
the steep, stony road. The approach would have been a fine
success if, just as Rose was about to pull up and salute, two or
three distracted hens had not scuttled across the road with a great
squawking, which caused Barkis to shy and stop so suddenly that
his careless rider landed in an ignominious heap just under old
Sorrel's astonished nose.
Rose was up again before Dr. Alec was out of the carryall, and
threw two dusty arms about his neck crying with a breathless voice
"O uncle, I'm so glad to see you! It is better than a cart-load of
goodies, and so dear of you to come!"
"But aren't you hurt, child! That was a rough tumble, and I'm afraid
you must be damaged somewhere," answered the Doctor, full of
fond anxiety, as he surveyed his girl with pride.
"My feelings are hurt, but my bones are all safe. It's too bad! I was
going to do it so nicely, and those stupid hens spoilt it all," said
Rose, quite crestfallen, as well as much shaken.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I asked 'Where is Rose?' and Mac
pointed to the little Amazon pelting down the hill at such a rate.
You couldn't have done anything that would please me more, and
I'm delighted to see how well you ride. Now, will you mount again,
or shall we turn Mac out and take you in?" asked Dr. Alec, as Aunt
Jessie proposed a start, for the others were beckoning them to
"Pride goeth before a fall better not try to show off again, ma'am,"
said Mac, who would have been more than mortal if he had
refrained from teasing when so good a chance offered.
"Pride does go before a fall, but I wonder if a sprained ankle
always comes after it?" thought Rose, bravely concealing her pain,
as she answered, with great dignity
"I prefer to ride. Come on, and see who will catch up first."
She was up and away as she spoke, doing her best to efface the
memory of her downfall by sitting very erect, elbows down, head
well up, and taking the motion of the pony as Barkis cantered
along as easily as a rocking-chair.
"You ought to see her go over a fence and race when we ride
together. She can scud, too, like a deer when we play 'Follow the
leader,' and skip stones and bat balls almost as well as I can," said
Mac, in reply to his uncle's praise of his pupil.
"I'm afraid you will think her a sad tomboy, Alec; but really she
seems so well and happy, I have not the heart to check her. She has
broken out in the most unexpected way, and frisks like a colt; for
she says she feels so full of spirits she must run and shout whether
it is proper or not," added Mrs. Jessie, who had been a pretty
hoyden years ago herself.
"Good good! that's the best news you could tell me," and Dr. Alec
rubbed his hands heartily. "Let the girl run and shout as much as
she will it is a sure sign of health, and as natural to a happy child
as frisking is to any young animal full of life. Tomboys make
strong women usually, and I had far rather find Rose playing
football with Mac than puttering over bead-work like that affected
midget, Ariadne Blish."
"But she cannot go on playing football very long, and we must not
forget that she has a woman's work to do by and by," began Mrs.
"Neither will Mac play football much longer, but he will be all the
better fitted for business, because of the health it gives him. Polish
is easily added, if the foundations are strong; but no amount of
gilding will be of use if your timber is not sound. I'm sure I'm right,
Jessie; and if I can do as well by my girl during the next six
months as I have the last, my experiment will succeed."
"It certainly will; for when I contrast that bright, blooming face
with the pale, listless one that made my heart ache a while ago, I
can believe in almost any miracle," said Mrs. Jessie, as Rose
looked round to point out a lovely view, with cheeks like the ruddy
apples in the orchard near by, eyes clear as the autumn sky
overhead, and vigour in every line of her girlish figure.
A general scramble among the rocks was followed by a regular
gypsy lunch, which the young folks had the rapture of helping to
prepare. Mother Atkinson put on her apron, turned up her sleeves,
and fell to work as gaily as if in her own kitchen, boiling the kettle
slung on three sticks, over a fire of cones and fir boughs; while the
girls spread the mossy table with a feast of country goodies, and
the children tumbled about in everyone's way till the toot of the
horn made them settle down like a flock of hungry birds.
As soon as the merry meal and a brief interval of repose were over,
it was unanimously voted to have some charades. A smooth, green
spot between two stately pines was chosen for the stage; shawls
hung up, properties collected, audience and actors separated, and a
word quickly chosen.
The first scene discovered Mac in a despondent attitude and
shabby dress, evidently much troubled in mind. To him entered a
remarkable creature with a brown paper bag over its head. A little
pink nose peeped through one hole in the middle, white teeth
through another, and above two eyes glared fiercely. Spires of
grass stuck in each side of the mouth seemed meant to represent
whiskers; the upper corners of the bag were twisted like ears, and
no one could doubt for a moment that the black scarf pinned on
behind was a tail.
This singular animal seemed in pantomime to be comforting his
master and offering advice, which was finally acted upon, for Mac
pulled off his boots, helped the little beast into them, and gave him
a bag; then, kissing his paw, with a hopeful gesture, the creature
retired, purring so successfully that there was a general cry of "Cat,
"Cat is the word," replied a voice, and the curtain fell.
The next scene was a puzzler, for in came another animal, on
all-fours this time, with a new sort of tail and long ears. A gray
shawl concealed its face, but an inquisitive sunbeam betrayed the
glitter as of goggles under the fringe. On its back rode a small
gentleman in Eastern costume, who appeared to find some
difficulty in keeping his seat as his steed jogged along. Suddenly a
spirit appeared, all in white, with long newspaper wings upon its
back and golden locks about its face. Singularly enough, the beast
beheld this apparition and backed instantly, but the rider evidently
saw nothing and whipped up unmercifully, also unsuccessfully, for
the spirit stood directly in the path, and the amiable beast would
not budge a foot. A lively skirmish followed, which ended in the
Eastern gentleman being upset into a sweet-fern bush, while the
better bred animal abased itself before the shining one.
The children were all in the dark till Mother Atkinson said, in an
"If that isn't Balaam and the ass, I'd like to know what it is. Rose
makes a sweet angel, doesn't she?"
"Ass" was evidently the word, and the angel retired, smiling with
mundane satisfaction over the compliment that reached her ears.
The next was a pretty little scene from the immortal story of
"Babes in the Wood." Jamie and Pokey came trotting in, hand in
hand, and, having been through the parts many times before, acted
with great ease and much fluency, audibly directing each other
from time to time as they went along. The berries were picked, the
way lost, tears shed, baby consolation administered, and then the
little pair lay down among the brakes and died with their eyes wide
open and the toes of their four little boots turned up to the daisies
in the most pathetic manner.
"Now the wobins tum. You be twite dead, Dimmy, and I'll peep in
and see 'em," one defunct innocent was heard to say.
"I hope they'll be quick, for I'm lying on a stone, and ants are
walking up my leg like fury," murmured the other.
Here the robins came flapping in with red scarves over their
breasts and leaves in their mouths, which they carefully laid upon
the babes wherever they would show best. A prickly blackberry
leaf placed directly over Pokey's nose caused her to sneeze so
violently that her little legs flew into the air; Jamie gave a startled
"Ow!" and the pitying fowls fled giggling.
After some discussion it was decided that the syllable must be
"strew or strow" and then they waited to see if it was a good guess.
This scene discovered Annette Snow in bed, evidently very ill;
Miss Jenny was her anxious mamma, and her merry conversation
amused the audience till Mac came in as a physician, and made
great fun with his big watch, pompous manner, and absurd
questions. He prescribed one pellet with an unpronounceable
name, and left after demanding twenty dollars for his brief visit.
The pellet was administered, and such awful agonies immediately
set in that the distracted mamma bade a sympathetic neighbour run
for Mother Know-all. The neighbour ran, and in came a brisk little
old lady in cap and specs, with a bundle of herbs under her arm,
which she at once applied in all sorts of funny ways, explaining
their virtues as she clapped a plantain poultice here, put a pounded
catnip plaster there, or tied a couple of mullein leaves round the
sufferer's throat. Instant relief ensued, the dying child sat up and
demanded baked beans. The grateful parent offered fifty dollars;
but Mother Know-all indignantly refused it and went smiling
away, declaring that a neighbourly turn needed no reward, and a
doctor's fee was all a humbug.
The audience were in fits of laughter over this scene, for Rose
imitated Mrs. Atkinson capitally, and the herb cure was a good hit
at the excellent lady's belief that "yarbs" would save mankind if
properly applied. No one enjoyed it more than herself, and the
saucy children prepared for the grand finale in high feather.
This closing scene was brief but striking, for two trains of cars
whizzed in from opposite sides, met with a terrible collision in the
middle of the stage, and a general smash-up completed the word
"Now let us act a proverb. I've got one all ready," said Rose, who
was dying to distinguish herself in some way before Uncle Alec.
So everyone but Mac, the gay Westerner, and Rose, took their
places on the rocky seats and discussed the late beautiful and
varied charade, in which Pokey frankly pronounced her own scene
the "bestest of all."
In five minutes the curtain was lifted; nothing appeared but a very
large sheet of brown paper pinned to a tree, and on it was drawn a
clock-face, the hands pointing to four. A small note below
informed the public that 4 A.M. was the time. Hardly had the
audience grasped this important fact when a long waterproof
serpent was seen uncoiling itself from behind a stump. An
inch-worm, perhaps, would be a better description, for it travelled
in the same humpy way as that pleasing reptile. Suddenly a very
wide-awake and active fowl advanced, pecking, chirping, and
scratching vigorously. A tuft of green leaves waved upon his crest,
a larger tuft of brakes made an umbrageous tail, and a shawl of
many colours formed his flapping wings. A truly noble bird, whose
legs had the genuine strut, whose eyes shone watchfully, and
whose voice had a ring that evidently struck terror into the
catterpillar's soul, if it was a catterpillar. He squirmed, he
wriggled, he humped as fast as he could, trying to escape; but all in
vain. The tufted bird espied him, gave one warbling sort of crow,
pounced upon him, and flapped triumphantly away.
"That early bird got such a big worm he could hardly carry him
off," laughed Aunt Jessie, as the children shouted over the joke
suggested by Mac's nickname.
"That is one of uncle's favourite proverbs, so I got it up for his
especial benefit," said Rose, coming up with the two-legged worm
"Very clever; what next?" asked Dr. Alec as she sat down beside
"The Dove boys are going to give us an 'Incident in the Life of
Napoleon,' as they call it; the children think it very splendid, and
the little fellows do it rather nicely," answered Mac with
A tent appeared, and pacing to and fro before it was a little
sentinel, who, in a brief soliloquy, informed the observers that the
elements were in a great state of confusion, that he had marched
some hundred miles or so that day, and that he was dying for want
of sleep. Then he paused, leaned upon his gun, and seemed to
doze; dropped slowly down, overpowered with slumber, and
finally lay flat, with his gun beside him, a faithless little sentinel.
Enter Napoleon, cocked hat, gray coat, high boots, folded arms,
grim mouth, and a melodramatic stride. Freddy Dove always
covered himself with glory in this part, and "took the stage" with a
Napoleonic attitude that brought down the house; for the
big-headed boy, with solemn, dark eyes and square brow, was "the
very moral of that rascal, Boneyparty," Mother Atkinson said.
Some great scheme was evidently brewing in his mighty mind a
trip across the Alps, a bonfire at Moscow, or a little skirmish at
Waterloo perhaps, for he marched in silent majesty till suddenly a
gentle snore disturbed the imperial reverie. He saw the sleeping
soldier and glared upon him, saying in an awful tone
"Ha! asleep at his post! Death is the penalty he must die!"
Picking up the musket, he is about to execute summary justice, as
emperors are in the habit of doing, when something in the face of
the weary sentinel appears to touch him. And well it might, for a
most engaging little warrior was Jack as he lay with his shako half
off, his childish face trying to keep sober, and a great black
moustache over his rosy mouth. It would have softened the heart of
any Napoleon, and the Little Corporal proved himself a man by
relenting, and saying, with a lofty gesture of forgiveness
"Brave fellow, he is worn out; I will let him sleep, and mount
guard in his place."
Then, shouldering the gun, this noble being strode to and fro with
a dignity which thrilled the younger spectators. The sentinel
awakes, sees what has happened, and gives himself up for lost. But
the Emperor restores his weapon, and, with that smile which won
all hearts, says, pointing to a high rock whereon a crow happens to
be sitting, "Be brave, be vigilant, and remember that from yonder
Pyramid generations are beholding you," and with these
memorable words he vanishes, leaving the grateful soldier bolt
upright, with his hand at his temple and deathless devotion
stamped upon his youthful countenance.
The applause which followed this superb piece had hardly
subsided, when a sudden splash and a shrill cry caused a general
rush toward the waterfall that went gambolling down the rocks,
singing sweetly as it ran. Pokey had tried to gambol also, and had
tumbled into a shallow pool, whither Jamie had gallantly followed,
in a vain attempt to fish her out, and both were paddling about half
frightened, half pleased with the unexpected bath.
This mishap made it necessary to get the dripping infants home as
soon as possible; so the wagons were loaded up, and away they
went, as merry as if the mountain air had really been "Oxygenated
Sweets not Bitters," as Dr. Alec suggested when Mac said he felt
as jolly as if he had been drinking champagne instead of the
current wine that came with a great frosted cake wreathed with
sugar roses in Aunt Plenty's hamper of goodies.
Rose took part in all the fun, and never betrayed by look or word
the twinges of pain she suffered in her ankle. She excused herself
from the games in the evening, however, and sat talking to Uncle
Alec in a lively way, that both amazed and delighted him; for she
confided to him that she played horse with the children, drilled
with the light infantry, climbed trees, and did other dreadful things
that would have caused the aunts to cry aloud if they knew of
"I don't care a pin what they say if you don't mind, uncle," she
answered, when he pictured the dismay of the good ladies.
"Ah, it's all very well to defy them, but you are getting so rampant,
I'm afraid you will defy me next, and then where are we?"
"No, I won't! I shouldn't dare; because you are my guardian, and
can put me in a strait-jacket if you like;" and Rose laughed in his
face, even while she nestled closer with a confiding gesture
pleasant to see.
"Upon my word, Rosy, I begin to feel like the man who bought an
elephant, and then didn't know what to do with him. I thought I
had got a pet and plaything for years to come; but here you are
growing up like a bean-stalk, and I shall find I've got a
strong-minded little woman on my hands before I can turn round.
There's predicament for a man and an uncle!"
Dr. Alec's comic distress was mercifully relieved for the time
being by a dance of goblins on the lawn, where the children, with
pumpkin lanterns on their heads, frisked about like
will-o'-the-wisps, as a parting surprise.
When Rose went to bed, she found that Uncle Alec had not
forgotten her; for on the table stood a delicate little easel, holding
two miniatures set in velvet. She knew them both, and stood
looking at them till her eyes brimmed over with tears that were
both sweet and sad; for they were the faces of her father and
mother, beautifully copied from portraits fast fading away.
Presently, she knelt down, and, putting her arms round the little
shrine, kissed one after the other, saying with an earnest voice, "I'll
truly try to make them glad to see me by and by."
And that was Rose's little prayer on the night of her fourteenth
Two days later the Campbells went home, a larger party than when
they came; for Dr. Alec was escort and Kitty Comet was borne in
state in a basket, with a bottle of milk, some tiny sandwiches, and
a doll's dish to drink out of, as well as a bit of carpet to lie on in
her palace car, out of which she kept popping her head in the most
There was a great kissing and cuddling, waving of handkerchiefs,
and last good-byes, as they went; and when they had started,
Mother Atkinson came running after them, to tuck in some little
pies, hot from the oven, "for the dears, who might get tired of
bread and butter during that long day's travel."
Another start, and another halt; for the Snow children came
shrieking up to demand the three kittens that Pokey was cooly
carrying off in a travelling bag. The unhappy kits were rescued,
half smothered, and restored to their lawful owners, amid dire
lamentation from the little kidnapper, who declared that she only
"tooked um 'cause they'd want to go wid their sister Tomit."
Start number three and stoppage number three, as Frank hailed
them with the luncheon basket, which had been forgotten, after
everyone had protested that it was safely in.
All went well after that, and the long journey was pleasantly
beguiled by Pokey and Pussy, who played together so prettily that
they were considered public benefactors.
"Rose doesn't want to go home, for she knows the aunts won't let
her rampage as she did up at Cosey Corner," said Mac, as they
approached the old house.
"I can't rampage if I want to for a time, at least; and I'll tell you
why. I sprained my ankle when I tumbled off of Barkis, and it gets
worse and worse; though I've done all I know to cure it and hide it,
so it shouldn't trouble anyone," whispered Rose, knitting her brows
with pain, as she prepared to descend, wishing her uncle would
take her instead of her bundles.
How he did it, she never knew; but Mac had her up the steps and
on the parlour sofa before she could put her foot to the ground.
"There you are right side up with care; and mind, now, if your
ankle bothers you, and you are laid up with it, I am to be your
footman. It's only fair, you know; for I don't forget how good you
have been to me." And Mac went to call Phebe, so full of gratitude
and good-will that his very goggles shone.
Chapter 15 - Ear-Rings
Rose's sprain proved to be a serious one, owing to neglect, and Dr.
Alec ordered her to lie on the sofa for a fortnight at least; whereat
she groaned dismally, but dared not openly complain, lest the boys
turn upon her with some of the wise little sermons on patience
which she had delivered for their benefit.
It was Mac's turn now, and honourably did he repay his debt; for,
as school was still forbidden, he had plenty of leisure, and devoted
most of it to Rose. He took many steps for her, and even allowed
her to teach him to knit, after assuring himself that many a brave
Scotchman knew how to "click the pricks." She was obliged to
take a solemn vow of secrecy, however, before he would consent;
for, though he did not mind being called "Giglamps," "Granny"
was more than his boyish soul could bear, and at the approach of
any of the Clan his knitting vanished as if by magic, which
frequent "chucking" out of sight did not improve the stripe he was
doing for Rose's new afghan.
She was busy with this pretty work one bright October afternoon,
all nicely established on her sofa in the upper hall, while Jamie
and Pokey (lent for her amusement) were keeping house in a
corner, with Comet and Rose's old doll for their "childerns."
Presently, Phebe appeared with a card. Rose read it, made a
grimace, then laughed and said
"I'll see Miss Blish," and immediately put on her company face,
pulled out her locket, and settled her curls.
"You dear thing, how do you do? I've been trying to call every day
since you got back, but I have so many engagements, I really
couldn't manage it till to-day. So glad you are alone, for mamma
said I could sit awhile, and I brought my lace-work to show you,
for it's perfectly lovely." cried Miss Blish, greeting Rose with a
kiss, which was not very warmly returned, though Rose politely
thanked her for coming, and bid Phebe roll up the easy chair.
"How nice to have a maid!" said Ariadne, as she settled herself
with much commotion. "Still, dear, you must be very lonely, and
feel the need of a bosom friend."
"I have my cousins," began Rose, with dignity, for her visitor's
patronising manner ruffled her temper.
"Gracious, child! you don't make friends of those great boys, do
you? Mamma says she really doesn't think it's proper for you to be
with them so much."
"They are like brothers, and my aunts do think it's proper," replied
Rose, rather sharply, for it struck her that this was none of Miss
"I was merely going to say I should be glad to have you for my
bosom friend, for Hatty Mason and I have had an awful quarrel,
and don't speak. She is too mean to live, so I gave her up. Just
think, she never paid back one of the caramels I've given her, and
never invited me to her party. I could have forgiven the caramels,
but to be left out in that rude way was more than I could bear, and
I told her never to look at me again as long as she lived."
"You are very kind, but I don't think I want a bosom friend, thank
you," said Rose, as Ariadne stopped to bridle and shake her flaxen
head over the delinquent Hatty Mason.
Now, in her heart Miss Blish thought Rose "a stuck-up puss," but
the other girls wanted to know her and couldn't, the old house was
a charming place to visit, the lads were considered fine fellows,
and the Campbells "are one of our first families," mamma said. So
Ariadne concealed her vexation at Rose's coolness, and changed
the subject as fast as possible.
"Studying French, I see; who is your teacher?" she asked, flitting
over the leaves of "Paul and Virginia," that lay on the table.
"I don't study it, for I read French as well as English, and uncle and
I often speak it for hours. He talks like a native, and says I have a
remarkably good accent."
Rose really could not help this small display of superiority, for
French was one of her strong points, and she was vain of it, though
she usually managed to hide this weakness. She felt that Ariadne
would be the better for a little crushing, and could not resist the
temptation to patronise in her turn.
"Oh, indeed!" said Miss Blish, rather blankly, for French was not
her strong point by any means.
"I am to go abroad with uncle in a year or two, and he knows how
important it is to understand the languages. Half the girls who
leave school can't speak decent French, and when they go abroad
they are so mortified. I shall be very glad to help you, if you like,
for, of course, you have no one to talk with at home."
Now Ariadne, though she looked like a wax doll, had feelings
within her instead of sawdust, and these feelings were hurt by
Rose's lofty tone. She thought her more "stuck up" than ever, but
did not know how to bring her down, yet longed to do it, for she
felt as if she had received a box on the ear, and involuntarily put
her hand up to it. The touch of an ear-ring consoled her, and
suggested a way of returning tit for tat in a telling manner.
"Thank you, dear; I don't need any help, for our teacher is from
Paris, and of course he speaks better French than your uncle."
Then she added, with a gesture of her head that set the little bells
on her ears to tingling: "How do you like my new ear-rings? Papa
gave them to me last week, and everyone says they are lovely."
Rose came down from her high horse with a rapidity that was
comical, for Ariadne had the upper hand now. Rose adored pretty
things, longed to wear them, and the desire of her girlish soul was
to have her ears bored, only Dr. Alec thought it foolish, so she
never had done it. She would gladly have given all the French she
could jabber for a pair of golden bells with pearl-tipped tongues,
like those Ariadne wore; and, clasping her hands, she answered, in
a tone that went to the hearer's heart
"They are too sweet for anything! If uncle would only let me wear
some, I should be perfectly happy."
"I wouldn't mind what he says. Papa laughed at me at first, but he
likes them now, and says I shall have diamond solitaires when I
am eighteen," said Ariadne, quite satisfied with her shot.
"I've got a pair now that were mamma's, and a beautiful little pair
of pearl and turquoise ones, that I am dying to wear," sighed Rose.
"Then do it. I'll pierce your ears, and you must wear a bit of silk in
them till they are well; your curls will hide them nicely; then,
some day, slip in your smallest ear-rings, and see if your uncle
don't like them."
"I asked him if it wouldn't do my eyes good once when they were
red, and he only laughed. People do cure weak eyes that way, don't
"Yes, indeed, and yours are sort of red. Let me see. Yes, I really
think you ought to do it before they get worse," said Ariadne,
peering into the large clear eye offered for inspection.
"Does it hurt much?" asked Rose, wavering.
"Oh dear, no; just a prick and a pull, and it's all over. I've done lots
of ears, and know just how. Come, push up your hair and get a big
"I don't quite like to do it without asking uncle's leave," faltered
Rose, when all was ready for the operation.
"Did he ever forbid it?" demanded Ariadne, hovering over her prey
like a vampire.
"Then do it, unless you are afraid," cried Miss Blish, bent on
accomplishing the deed.
That last word settled the matter, and, closing her eyes, Rose said
"Punch!" in the tone of one giving the fatal order "Fire!"
Ariadne punched, and the victim bore it in heroic silence, though
she turned pale and her eyes were full of tears of anguish.
"There! Now pull the bits of silk often, and cold-cream your ears
every night, and you'll soon be ready for the rings," said Ariadne,
well pleased with her job, for the girl who spoke French with "a
fine accent" lay flat upon the sofa, looking as exhausted as if she
had had both ears cut off.
"It does hurt dreadfully, and I know uncle won't like it," sighed
Rose, as remorse began to gnaw. "Promise not to tell, or I shall be
teased to death," she added, anxiously, entirely forgetting the two
little pitchers gifted with eyes as well as ears, who had been
watching the whole performance from afar.
"Never. Mercy me, what's that?" and Ariadne started as a sudden
sound of steps and voices came up from below.
"It's the boys! Hide the needle. Do my ears show? Don't breathe a
word!" whispered Rose, scrambling about to conceal all traces of
their iniquity from the sharp eyes of the Clan.
Up they came, all in good order, laden with the proceeds of a
nutting expedition, for they always reported to Rose and paid
tribute to their queen in the handsomest manner.
"How many, and how big! We'll have a grand roasting frolic after
tea, won't we?" said Rose, plunging both hands into a bag of glossy
brown nuts, while the Clan "stood at ease" and nodded to Ariadne.
"That lot was picked especially for you, Rosy. I got every one
myself, and they are extra whackers," said Mac, presenting a
bushel or so.
"You should have seen Giglamps when he was after them. He
pitched out of the tree, and would have broken his blessed old
neck if Arch had not caught him," observed Steve, as he lounged
gracefully in the window seat.
"You needn't talk, Dandy, when you didn't know a chestnut from a
beech, and kept on thrashing till I told you of it," retorted Mac,
festooning himself over the back of the sofa, being a privileged
"I don't make mistakes when I thrash you, old Worm, so you'd
better mind what you are about," answered Steve, without a ray of
proper respect for his elder brother.
"It is getting dark, and I must go, or mamma will be alarmed," said
Ariadne, rising in sudden haste, though she hoped to be asked to
remain to the nut-party.
No one invited her; and all the while she was putting on her things
and chatting to Rose the boys were telegraphing to one another the
sad fact that someone ought to escort the young lady home. Not a
boy felt heroic enough to cast himself into the breach, however;
even polite Archie shirked the duty, saying to Charlie, as they
quietly slipped into an adjoining room
"I'm not going to do all the gallivanting. Let Steve take that chit
home and show his manners."
"I'll be hanged if I do!" answered Prince, who disliked Miss Blish
because she tried to be coquettish with him.
"Then I will," and, to the dismay of both recreant lads, Dr. Alec
walked out of the room to offer his services to the "chit."
He was too late, however, for Mac, obeying a look from Rose, had
already made a victim of himself, and trudged meekly away,
wishing the gentle Ariadne at the bottom of the Red Sea.
"Then I will take this lady down to tea, as the other one has found
a gentleman to go home with her. I see the lamps are lighted
below, and I smell a smell which tells me that auntie has
something extra nice for us to-night."
As he spoke, Dr. Alec was preparing to carry Rose downstairs as
usual; but Archie and Prince rushed forward, begging with penitent
eagerness for the honour of carrying her in an arm-chair. Rose
consented, fearing that her uncle's keen eye would discover the
fatal bits of silk; so the boys crossed hands, and, taking a good grip
of each curly pate, she was borne down in state, while the others
followed by way of the banisters.
Tea was ordered earlier than usual, so that Jamie and his dolly
could have a taste, at least, of the holiday fun, for they were to stay
till seven, and be allowed twelve roasted chestnuts apiece, which
they were under bonds not to eat till next day.
Tea was despatched rapidly, therefore, and the party gathered
round the wide hearth in the dining-room, where the nuts were
soon dancing gaily on hot shovels or bouncing out among the
company, thereby causing delightful panics among the little ones.
"Come, Rosy, tell us a story while we work, for you can't help
much, and must amuse us as your share," proposed Mac, who sat
in the shade pricking nuts, and who knew by experience what a
capital little Scheherazade his cousin was.
"Yes, we poor monkeys can't burn our paws for nothing, so tell
away, Pussy," added Charlie, as he threw several hot nuts into her
lap and shook his fingers afterwards.
"Well, I happen to have a little story with a moral to it in my mind,
and I will tell it, though it is intended for younger children than
you," answered Rose, who was rather fond of telling instructive
"Fire away," said Geordie, and she obeyed, little thinking what a
disastrous story it would prove to herself.
"Well, once upon a time, a little girl went to see a young lady who
was very fond of her. Now, the young lady happened to be lame,
and had to have her foot bandaged up every day; so she kept a
basketful of bandages, all nicely rolled and ready. The little girl
liked to play with this basket, and one day, when she thought no
one saw her, she took one of the rolls without asking leave, and put
it in her pocket."
Here Pokey, who had been peering lovingly down at the five warm
nuts that lay at the bottom of her tiny pocket, suddenly looked up
and said, "Oh!" in a startled tone, as if the moral tale had become
intensely interesting all at once.
Rose heard and saw the innocent betrayal of the small sinner, and
went on in a most impressive manner, while the boys nudged one
another and winked as they caught the joke.
"But an eye did see this naughty little girl, and whose eye do you
think it was?"
"Eye of Dod," murmured conscience-stricken Pokey, spreading
two chubby little hands before the round face, which they were not
half big enough to hide.
Rose was rather taken aback by this reply, but, feeling that she was
producing a good effect, she added seriously
"Yes, God saw her, and so did the young lady, but she did not say
anything; she waited to see what the little girl would do about it.
She had been very happy before she took the bandage, but when it
was in her pocket she seemed troubled, and pretty soon stopped
playing, and sat down in a corner looking very sober. She thought
a few minutes, and then went and put back the roll very softly, and
her face cleared up, and she was a happy child again. The young
lady was glad to see that, and wondered what made the little girl
put it back."
"Tonscience p'icked her," murmured a contrite voice from behind
the small hands pressed tightly over Pokey's red face.
"And why did she take it, do you suppose?" asked Rose, in a
school-marmish tone, feeling that all the listeners were interested
in her tale and its unexpected application.
"It was so nice and wound, and she wanted it deffly," answered the
"Well, I'm glad she had such a good conscience. The moral is that
people who steal don't enjoy what they take, and are not happy till
they put it back. What makes that little girl hide her face?" asked
Rose, as she concluded.
"Me's so 'shamed of Pokey," sobbed the small culprit, quite
overcome by remorse and confusion at this awful disclosure.
"Come, Rose, it's too bad to tell her little tricks before everyone,
and preach at her in that way; you wouldn't like it yourself," began
Dr. Alec, taking the weeper on his knee and administering
consolation in the shape of kisses and nuts.
Before Rose could express her regret, Jamie, who had been
reddening and ruffling like a little turkey-cock for several minutes,
burst out indignantly, bent on avenging the wound given to his
"I know something bad that you did, and I'm going to tell right out.
You thought we didn't see you, but we did, and you said uncle
wouldn't like it, and the boys would tease, and you made Ariadne
promise not to tell, and she punched holes in your ears to put
ear-rings in. So now! and that's much badder than to take an old
piece of rag; and I hate you for making my Pokey cry."
Jamie's somewhat incoherent explosion produced such an effect
that Pokey's small sin was instantly forgotten, and Rose felt that
her hour had come.
"What! what! what!" cried the boys in a chorus, dropping their
shovels and knives to gather round Rose, for a guilty clutching at
her ears betrayed her, and with a feeble cry of "Ariadne made me!"
she hid her head among the pillows like an absurd little ostrich.
"Now she'll go prancing round with bird cages and baskets and
carts and pigs, for all I know, in her ears, as the other girls do, and
won't she look like a goose?" asked one tormentor, tweaking a curl
that strayed out from the cushions.
"I didn't think she'd be so silly," said Mac, in a tone of
disappointment that told Rose she had sunk in the esteem of her
"That Blish girl is a nuisance, and ought not to be allowed to come
here with her nonsensical notions," said the Prince, feeling a strong
desire to shake that young person as an angry dog might shake a
"How do you like it, uncle?" asked Archie, who, being the head of
a family himself, believed in preserving discipline at all costs.
"I am very much surprised; but I see she is a girl, after all, and
must have her vanities like all the rest of them," answered Dr.
Alec, with a sigh, as if he had expected to find Rose a sort of
angel, above all earthly temptations.
"What shall you do about it, sir?" inquired Geordie, wondering
what punishment would be inflicted on a feminine culprit.
"As she is fond of ornaments, perhaps we had better give her a
nose-ring also. I have one somewhere that a Fiji belle once wore;
I'll look it up," and, leaving Pokey to Jamie's care, Dr. Alec rose as
if to carry out his suggestion in earnest.
"Good! good! We'll do it right away! Here's a gimlet, so you hold
her, boys, while I get her dear little nose all ready," cried Charlie,
whisking away the pillow as the other boys danced about the sofa
in true Fiji style.
It was a dreadful moment, for Rose could not run away she could
only grasp her precious nose with one hand and extend the other,
"O uncle, save me, save me!"
Of course he saved her; and when she was securely barricaded by
his strong arm, she confessed her folly in such humiliation of
spirit, that the lads, after a good laugh at her, decided to forgive
her and lay all the blame on the tempter, Ariadne. Even Dr. Alec
relented so far as to propose two gold rings for the ears instead of
one copper one for the nose; a proceeding which proved that if
Rose had all the weakness of her sex for jewellery, he had all the
inconsistency of his in giving a pretty penitent exactly what she
wanted, spite of his better judgment.
Chapter 16 - Bread and Button-Holes
"What in the world is my girl thinking about all alone here, with
such a solemn face?" asked Dr. Alec, coming into the study, one
November day, to find Rose sitting there with folded hands and a
very thoughtful aspect.
"Uncle, I want to have some serious conversation with you, if you
have time," she said, coming out of a brown study, as if she had
not heard his question.
"I'm entirely at your service, and most happy to listen," he
answered, in his politest manner, for when Rose put on her
womanly little airs he always treated her with a playful sort of
respect that pleased her very much.
Now, as he sat down beside her, she said, very soberly
"I've been trying to decide what trade I would learn, and I want you
to advise me."
"Trade, my dear?" and Dr. Alec looked so astonished that she
hastened to explain.
"I forgot that you didn't hear the talk about it up at Cosey Corner.
You see we used to sit under the pines and sew, and talk a great
deal all the ladies, I mean and I liked it very much. Mother
Atkinson thought that everyone should have a trade, or something
to make a living out of, for rich people may grow poor, you know,
and poor people have to work. Her girls were very clever, and
could do ever so many things, and Aunt Jessie thought the old lady
was right; so when I saw how happy and independent those young
ladies were, I wanted to have a trade, and then it wouldn't matter
about money, though I like to have it well enough."
Dr. Alec listened to this explanation with a curious mixture of
surprise, pleasure, and amusement in his face, and looked at his
little niece as if she had suddenly changed into a young woman.
She had grown a good deal in the last six months, and an amount
of thinking had gone on in that young head which would have
astonished him greatly could he have known it all, for Rose was
one of the children who observe and meditate much, and now and
then nonplus their friends by a wise or curious remark.
"I quite agree with the ladies, and shall be glad to help you decide
on something if I can," said the Doctor seriously. "What do you
incline to? A natural taste or talent is a great help in choosing, you
"I haven't any talent, or any especial taste that I can see, and that is
why I can't decide, uncle. So, I think it would be a good plan to
pick out some very useful business and learn it, because I don't do
it for pleasure, you see, but as a part of my education, and to be
ready in case I'm ever poor," answered Rose, looking as if she
rather longed for a little poverty so that her useful gift might be
"Well, now, there is one very excellent, necessary, and womanly
accomplishment that no girl should be without, for it is a help to
rich and poor, and the comfort of families depends upon it. This
fine talent is neglected nowadays, and considered old-fashioned,
which is a sad mistake, and one that I don't mean to make in
bringing up my girl. It should be a part of every girl's education,
and I know of a most accomplished lady who will teach you in the
best and pleasantest manner."
"Oh, what is it?" cried Rose eagerly, charmed to be met in this
helpful and cordial way.
"Housekeeping!" answered Dr. Alec.
"Is that an accomplishment?" asked Rose, while her face fell, for
she had indulged in all sorts of vague, delightful dreams.
"Yes; it is one of the most beautiful as well as useful of all the arts
a woman can learn. Not so romantic, perhaps, as singing, painting,
writing, or teaching, even; but one that makes many happy and
comfortable, and home the sweetest place in the world. Yes, you
may open your big eyes; but it is a fact that I had rather see you a
good housekeeper than the greatest belle in the city. It need not
interfere with any talent you may possess, but it is a necessary part
of your training, and I hope that you will set about it at once, now
that you are well and strong."
"Who is the lady?" asked Rose, rather impressed by her uncle's
"Is she accomplished?" began Rose in a wondering tone, for this
great-aunt of hers had seemed the least cultivated of them all.
"In the good old-fashioned way she is very accomplished, and has
made this house a happy home to us all, ever since we can
remember. She is not elegant, but genuinely good, and so beloved
and respected that there will be universal mourning for her when
her place is empty. No one can fill it, for the solid, homely virtues
of the dear soul have gone out of fashion, as I say, and nothing new
can be half so satisfactory, to me at least."
"I should like to have people feel so about me. Can she teach me to
do what she does, and to grow as good?" asked Rose, with a little
prick of remorse for even thinking that Aunt Plenty was a
commonplace old lady.
"Yes, if you don't despise such simple lessons as she can give. I
know it would fill her dear old heart with pride and pleasure to
feel that anyone cared to learn of her, for she fancies her day gone
by. Let her teach you how to be what she has been a skilful, frugal,
cheerful housewife; the maker and the keeper of a happy home,
and by and by you will see what a valuable lesson it is."
"I will, uncle. But how shall I begin?"
"I'll speak to her about it, and she will make it all right with Dolly,
for cooking is one of the main things, you know."
"So it is! I don't mind that a bit, for I like to mess, and used to try
at home; but I had no one to tell me, so I never did much but spoil
my aprons. Pies are great fun, only Dolly is so cross, I don't believe
she will ever let me do a thing in the kitchen."
"Then we'll cook in the parlour. I fancy Aunt Plenty will manage
her, so don't be troubled. Only mind this, I'd rather you learned
how to make good bread than the best pies ever baked. When you
bring me a handsome, wholesome loaf, entirely made by yourself,
I shall be more pleased than if you offered me a pair of slippers
embroidered in the very latest style. I don't wish to bribe you, but
I'll give you my heartiest kiss, and promise to eat every crumb of
the loaf myself."
"It's a bargain! it's a bargain! Come and tell aunty all about it, for
I'm in a hurry to begin," cried Rose, dancing before him toward the
parlor, where Miss Plenty sat alone knitting contentedly, yet ready
to run at the first call for help of any sort, from any quarter.
No need to tell how surprised and gratified she was at the
invitation she received to teach the child the domestic arts which
were her only accomplishments, nor to relate how energetically
she set about her pleasant task. Dolly dared not grumble, for Miss
Plenty was the one person whom she obeyed, and Phebe openly
rejoiced, for these new lessons brought Rose nearer to her, and
glorified the kitchen in the good girl's eyes.
To tell the truth, the elder aunts had sometimes felt that they did
not have quite their share of the little niece who had won their
hearts long ago, and was the sunshine of the house. They talked it
over together sometimes, but always ended by saying that as Alec
had all the responsibility, he should have the larger share of the
dear girl's love and time, and they would be contented with such
crumbs of comfort as they could get.
Dr. Alec had found out this little secret, and, after reproaching
himself for being blind and selfish, was trying to devise some way
of mending matters without troubling anyone, when Rose's new
whim suggested an excellent method of weaning her a little from
himself. He did not know how fond he was of her till he gave her
up to the new teacher, and often could not resist peeping in at the
door to see how she got on, or stealing sly looks through the slide
when she was deep in dough, or listening intently to some
impressive lecture from Aunt Plenty. They caught him at it now
and then, and ordered him off the premises at the point of the
rolling-pin; or, if unusually successful, and, therefore, in a milder
mood, they lured him away with bribes of ginger-bread, a stray
pickle, or a tart that was not quite symmetrical enough to suit their
Of course he made a point of partaking copiously of all the
delectable messes that now appeared at table, for both the cooks
were on their mettle, and he fared sumptuously every day. But an
especial relish was given to any dish when, in reply to his honest
praise of it, Rose coloured up with innocent pride, and said
"I made that, uncle, and I'm glad you like it."
It was some time before the perfect loaf appeared, for
bread-making is an art not easily learned, and Aunt Plenty was
very thorough in her teaching; so Rose studied yeast first, and
through various stages of cake and biscuit came at last to the
crowning glory of the "handsome, wholesome loaf." It appeared at
tea-time, on a silver salver, proudly borne in by Phebe, who could
not refrain from whispering, with a beaming face, as she set it
down before Dr. Alec
"Ain't it just lovely, sir?"
"It is a regularly splendid loaf! Did my girl make it all herself?" he
asked, surveying the shapely, sweet-smelling object with real
interest and pleasure.
"Every particle herself, and never asked a bit of help or advice
from anyone," answered Aunt Plenty, folding her hands with an air
of unmitigated satisfaction, for her pupil certainly did her great
"I've had so many failures and troubles that I really thought I never
should be able to do it alone. Dolly let one splendid batch burn up
because I forgot it. She was there and smelt it, but never did a
thing, for she said, when I undertook to bake bread I must give my
whole mind to it. Wasn't it hard? She might have called me at
least," said Rose, recollecting, with a sigh, the anguish of that
"She meant you should learn by experience, as Rosamond did in
that little affair of the purple jar, you remember."
"I always thought it very unfair in her mother not to warn the poor
thing a little bit; and she was regularly mean when Rosamond
asked for a bowl to put the purple stuff in, and she said, in such a
provoking way, 'I did not agree to lend you a bowl, but I will, my
dear.' Ugh! I always want to shake that hateful woman, though she
was a moral mamma."
"Never mind her now, but tell me all about my loaf," said Dr. Alec,
much amused at Rose's burst of indignation.
"There's nothing to tell, uncle, except that I did my best, gave my
mind to it, and sat watching over it all the while it was in the oven
till I was quite baked myself. Everything went right this time, and
it came out a nice, round, crusty loaf, as you see. Now taste it, and
tell me if it is good as well as handsome."
"Must I cut it? Can't I put it under a glass cover and keep it in the
parlor as they do wax flowers and fine works of that sort?"
"What an idea, uncle! It would mould and be spoilt. Besides,
people would laugh at us, and make fun of my old-fashioned
accomplishment. You promised to eat it, and you must; not all at
once, but as soon as you can, so I can make you some more."
Dr. Alec solemnly cut off his favourite crusty slice, and solemnly
ate it; then wiped his lips, and brushing back Rose's hair, solemnly
kissed her on the forehead, saying, heartily
"My dear, it is perfect bread, and you are an honour to your
teacher. When we have our model school I shall offer a prize for
the best bread, and you will get it."
"I've got it already, and I'm quite satisfied," said Rose, slipping into
her seat, and trying to hide her right hand which had a burn on it.
But Dr. Alec saw it, guessed how it came there, and after tea
insisted on easing the pain which she would hardly confess.
"Aunt Clara says I am spoiling my hands, but I don't care, for I've
had such good times with Aunt Plenty, and I think she has enjoyed
it as much as I have. Only one thing troubles me, uncle, and I want
to ask you about it," said Rose, as they paced up and down the hall
in the twilight, the bandaged hand very carefully laid on Dr. Alec's
"More little confidences? I like them immensely, so tell away, my
"Well, you see I feel as if Aunt Peace would like to do something
for me, and I've found out what it can be. You know she can't go
about like Aunty Plen, and we are so busy nowadays that she is
rather lonely, I'm afraid. So I want to take lessons in sewing of her.
She works so beautifully, and it is a useful thing, you know, and I
ought to be a good needlewoman as well as housekeeper, oughtn't
"Bless your kind little heart, that is what I was thinking of the
other day when Aunt Peace said she saw you very seldom now,
you were so busy I wanted to speak of it, but fancied you had as
much on your hands as you could manage. It would delight the
dear woman to teach you all her delicate handicraft, especially
button-holes, for I believe that is where young ladies fail; at least,
I've heard them say so. So, do you devote your mind to
button-holes; make 'em all over my clothes if you want something
to practice on. I'll wear any quantity."
Rose laughed at this reckless offer, but promised to attend to that
important branch, though she confessed that darning was her weak
point. Whereupon Uncle Alec engaged to supply her with socks in
all stages of dilapidation, and to have a new set at once, so that she
could run the heels for him as a pleasant beginning.
Then they went up to make their request in due form, to the great
delight of gentle Aunt Peace, who got quite excited with the fun
that went on while they would yarn, looked up darning needles,
and fitted out a nice little mending basket for her pupil.
Very busy and very happy were Rose's days now, for in the
morning she went about the house with Aunt Plenty attending to
linen-closets and store-rooms, pickling and preserving, exploring
garret and cellar to see that all was right, and learning, in the good
old-fashioned manner, to look well after the ways of the
In the afternoon, after her walk or drive, she sat with Aunt Peace
plying her needle, while Aunt Plenty, whose eyes were failing,
knitted and chatted briskly, telling many a pleasant story of old
times, till the three were moved to laugh and cry together, for the
busy needles were embroidering all sorts of bright patterns on the
lives of the workers, though they seemed to be only stitching
cotton and darning hose.
It was a pretty sight to see the rosy-faced little maid sitting
between the two old ladies, listening dutifully to their instructions,
and cheering the lessons with her lively chatter and blithe laugh. If
the kitchen had proved attractive to Dr. Alec when Rose was there
at work, the sewing-room was quite irresistible, and he made
himself so agreeable that no one had the heart to drive him away,
especially when he read aloud or spun yarns.
"There! I've made you a new set of warm night-gowns with four
button-holes in each. See if they are not neatly done," said Rose,
one day, some weeks after the new lessons began.
"Even to a thread, and nice little bars across the end so I can't tear
them when I twitch the buttons out. Most superior work, ma'am,
and I'm deeply grateful; so much so, that I'll sew on these buttons
myself, and save those tired fingers from another prick."
"You sew them on?" cried Rose, with her eyes wide open in
"Wait a bit till I get my sewing tackle, and then you shall see what
I can do."
"Can he, really?" asked Rose of Aunt Peace, as Uncle Alec
marched off with a comical air of importance.
"Oh, yes, I taught him years ago, before he went to sea; and I
suppose he has had to do things for himself, more or less, ever
since; so he has kept his hand in."
He evidently had, for he was soon back with a funny little
work-bag, out of which he produced a thimble without a top; and,
having threaded his needle, he proceeded to sew on the buttons so
handily that Rose was much impressed and amused.
"I wonder if there is anything in the world that you cannot do," she
said, in a tone of respectful admiration.
"There are one or two things that I am not up to yet," he answered,
with a laugh in the corner of his eye, as he waxed his thread with a
"I should like to know what?"
"Bread and button-holes, ma'am."
Chapter 17 - Good Bargains
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, and four boys were trying to
spend it quietly in the "liberry," as Jamie called the room devoted
to books and boys, at Aunt Jessie's. Will and Geordie were
sprawling on the sofa, deep in the adventures of the scapegraces
and ragamuffins whose histories are now the fashion. Archie
lounged in the easy chair, surrounded by newspapers; Charlie
stood upon the rug, in an Englishman's favourite attitude, and, I
regret to say, both were smoking cigars.
"It is my opinion that this day will never come to an end," said
Prince, with a yawn that nearly rent him asunder.
"Read and improve your mind, my son," answered Archie, peering
solemnly over the paper behind which he had been dozing.
"Don't you preach, parson, but put on your boots and come out for
a tramp, instead of mulling over the fire like a granny."
"No, thank you, tramps in an easterly storm don't strike me as
amusing." There Archie stopped and held up his hand, for a
pleasant voice was heard saying outside
"Are the boys in the library, auntie?"
"Yes, dear, and longing for sunshine; so run in and make it for
them," answered Mrs. Jessie.
"It's Rose," and Archie threw his cigar into the fire.
"What's that for?" asked Charlie.
"Gentlemen don't smoke before ladies."
"True; but I'm not going to waste my weed," and Prince poked his
into the empty inkstand that served them for an ash tray.
A gentle tap at the door was answered by a chorus of "Come in,"
and Rose appeared, looking blooming and breezy with the chilly
"If I disturb you, say so, and I'll go away," she began, pausing on
the threshold with modest hesitation, for something in the elder
boys' faces excited her curiosity.
"You never disturb us, cousin," said the smokers, while the readers
tore themselves from the heroes of the bar-room and gutter long
enough to nod affably to their guest.
As Rose bent to warm her hands, one end of Archie's cigar stuck
out of the ashes, smoking furiously and smelling strongly.
"Oh, you bad boys, how could you do it, to-day of all days?" she
"Where's the harm?" asked Archie.
"You know as well as I do; your mother doesn't like it, and it's a
bad habit, for it wastes money and does you no good."
"Fiddlesticks! every man smokes, even Uncle Alec, whom you
think so perfect," began Charlie, in his teasing way.
"No, he doesn't! He has given it up, and I know why," cried Rose
"Now I think of it, I haven't seen the old meerschaum since he
came home. Did he stop it on our account?" asked Archie.
"Yes," and Rose told the little scene on the seashore in the
Archie seemed much impressed, and said manfully, "He won't
have done that in vain so far as I'm concerned. I don't care a pin
about smoking, so can give it up as easy as not, and I promise you I
will. I only do it now and then for fun."
"You too?" and Rose looked up at the bonny Prince, who never
looked less bonny than at that moment, for he had resumed his
cigar just to torment her.
Now Charlie cared as little as Archie about smoking, but it would
not do to yield too soon: so he shook his head, gave a great puff,
and said loftily
"You women are always asking us to give up harmless little things
just because you don't approve of them. How would you like it if
we did the same by you, miss?"
"If I did harmful or silly things, I'd thank you for telling me of
them, and I'd try to mend my ways," answered Rose heartily.
"Well, now, we'll see if you mean what you say. I'll give up
smoking to please you, if you will give up something to please
me," said Prince, seeing a good chance to lord it over the weaker
vessel at small cost to himself.
"I'll agree if it is as foolish as cigars."
"Oh, it's ever so much sillier."
"Then I promise; what is it?" and Rose quite trembled with anxiety
to know which of her pet habits or possessions she must lose.
"Give up your ear-rings," and Charlie laughed wickedly, sure that
she would never hold to that bargain.
Rose uttered a cry and clapped both hands to her ears where the
gold rings hung.
"Oh, Charlie, wouldn't anything else do as well? I've been through
so much teasing and trouble, I do want to enjoy my pretty
ear-rings, for I can wear them now."
"Wear as many as you like, and I'll smoke in peace," returned this
"Will nothing else satisfy you?" imploringly.
Rose stood silent for a minute, thinking of something Aunt Jessie
once said "You have more influence over the boys than you know;
use it for their good, and I shall thank you all my life." Here was a
chance to do some good by sacrificing a little vanity of her own.
She felt it was right to do it, yet found it very hard, and asked
"Do you mean never wear them, Charlie?"
"Never, unless you want me to smoke."
"I never do."
"Then clinch the bargain."
He had no idea she would do it, and was much surprised when she
took the dear rings from her ears, with a quick gesture, and held
them out to him, saying, in a tone that made the colour come up to
his brown cheek, it was so full of sweet good will
"I care more for my cousins than for my ear-rings, so I promise,
and I'll keep my word."
"For shame, Prince! let her wear her little danglers if she likes, and
don't bargain about doing what you know is right," cried Archie,
coming out of his grove of newspapers with an indignant bounce.
But Rose was bent on showing her aunt that she could use her
influence for the boys' good, and said steadily
"It is fair, and I want it to be so, then you will believe I'm in
earnest. Here, each of you wear one of these on your watch-guard
to remind you. I shall not forget, because very soon I cannot wear
ear-rings if I want to."
As she spoke, Rose offered a little ring to each cousin, and the
boys, seeing how sincere she was, obeyed her. When the pledges
were safe, Rose stretched a hand to each, and the lads gave hers a
hearty grip, half pleased and half ashamed of their part in the
Just at that moment Dr. Alec and Mrs. Jessie came in.
"What's this? Dancing Ladies' Triumph on Sunday?" exclaimed
Uncle Alec, surveying the trio with surprise.
"No, sir, it is the Anti-Tobacco League. Will you join?" said
Charlie, while Rose slipped away to her aunt, and Archie buried
both cigars behind the back log.
When the mystery was explained, the elders were well pleased,
and Rose received a vote of thanks, which made her feel as if she
had done a service to her country, as she had, for every boy who
grows up free from bad habits bids fair to make a good citizen.
"I wish Rose would drive a bargain with Will and Geordie also, for
I think these books are as bad for the small boys as cigars for the
large ones," said Mrs. Jessie, sitting down on the sofa between the
readers, who politely curled up their legs to make room for her.
"I thought they were all the fashion," answered Dr. Alec, settling in
the big chair with Rose.
"So is smoking, but it is harmful. The writers of these popular
stories intend to do good, I have no doubt, but it seems to me they
fail because their motto is, 'Be smart, and you will be rich,' instead
of 'Be honest, and you will be happy.' I do not judge hastily, Alec,
for I have read a dozen, at least, of these stories, and, with much
that is attractive to boys, I find a great deal to condemn in them,
and other parents say the same when I ask them."
"Now, Mum, that's too bad! I like 'em tip-top. This one is a regular
screamer," cried Will.
"They're bully books, and I'd like to know where's the harm,"
"You have just shown us one of the chief evils, and that is slang,"
answered their mother quickly.
"Must have it, ma'am. If these chaps talked all right, there'd be no
fun in 'em," protested Will.
"A boot-black mustn't use good grammar, and a newsboy must
swear a little, or he wouldn't be natural," explained Geordie, both
boys ready to fight gallantly for their favourites.
"But my sons are neither boot-blacks nor newsboys, and I object to
hearing them use such words as 'screamer,' 'bully,' and 'buster.' In
fact, I fail to see the advantage of writing books about such people
unless it is done in a very different way. I cannot think they will
help to refine the ragamuffins if they read them, and I'm sure they
can do no good to the better class of boys, who through these
books are introduced to police courts, counterfeiters' dens,
gambling houses, drinking saloons, and all sorts of low life."
"Some of them are about first-rate boys, mother; and they go to sea
and study, and sail round the world, having great larks all the
"I have read about them, Geordie, and though they are better than
the others, I am not satisfied with these optical delusions, as I call
them. Now, I put it to you, boys, is it natural for lads from fifteen
to eighteen to command ships, defeat pirates, outwit smugglers,
and so cover themselves with glory, that Admiral Farragut invites
them to dinner, saying, 'Noble boy, you are an honour to your
country!' Or, if the hero is in the army, he has hair-breadth escapes
and adventures enough in one small volume to turn his hair white,
and in the end he goes to Washington at the express desire of the
President or Commander-in-chief to be promoted to no end of stars
and bars. Even if the hero is merely an honest boy trying to get his
living, he is not permitted to do so in a natural way, by hard work
and years of patient effort, but is suddenly adopted by a millionaire
whose pocket-book he has returned; or a rich uncle appears from
sea just in the nick of time; or the remarkable boy earns a few
dollars, speculates in pea-nuts or neckties, and grows rich so
rapidly that Sinbad in the diamond valley is a pauper compared to
him. Isn't it so, boys?"
"Well, the fellows in these books are mighty lucky, and very smart,
I must say," answered Will, surveying an illustration on the open
page before him, where a small but virtuous youth is upsetting a
tipsy giant in a bar-room, and under it the elegant inscription,
"Dick Dauntless punches the head of Sam Soaker."
"It gives boys such wrong ideas of life and business; shows them
so much evil and vulgarity that they need not know about, and
makes the one success worth having a fortune, a lord's daughter, or
some worldly honour, often not worth the time it takes to win. It
does seem to me that some one might write stories that should be
lively, natural and helpful tales in which the English should be
good, the morals pure, and the characters such as we can love in
spite of the faults that all may have. I can't bear to see such crowds
of eager little fellows at the libraries reading such trash; weak,
when it is not wicked, and totally unfit to feed the hungry minds
that feast on it for want of something better. There! my lecture is
done; now I should like to hear what you gentlemen have to say,"
and Aunt Jessie subsided with a pretty flush on the face that was
full of motherly anxiety for her boys.
"Tom Brown just suits mother, and me too, so I wish Mr. Hughes
would write another story as good," said Archie.
"You don't find things of this sort in Tom Brown; yet these books
are all in the Sunday-school libraries" and Mrs. Jessie read the
following paragraph from the book she had taken from Will's hand
" 'In this place we saw a tooth of John the Baptist. Ben said he
could see locust and wild honey sticking to it. I couldn't. Perhaps
John used a piece of the true cross for a tooth-pick.' "
"A larky sort of a boy says that, Mum, and we skip the parts where
they describe what they saw in the different countries," cried Will.
"And those descriptions, taken mostly from guidebooks, I fancy,
are the only parts of any real worth. The scrapes of the bad boys
make up the rest of the story, and it is for those you read these
books, I think," answered his mother, stroking back the hair off the
honest little face that looked rather abashed at this true statement
of the case.
"Anyway, mother, the ship part is useful, for we learn how to sail
her, and by and by that will all come handy when we go to sea,"
put in Geordie.
"Indeed, then you can explain this man uvre to me, of course " and
Mrs. Jessie read from another page the following nautical
"The wind is south-south-west, and we can have her up four points
closer to the wind, and still be six points off the wind. As she luffs
up we shall man the fore and main sheets, slack on the weather,
and haul on the lee braces."
"I guess I could, if I wasn't afraid of uncle. He knows so much
more than I do, he'd laugh," began Geordie, evidently puzzled by
"Ho, you know you can't, so why make believe? We don't
understand half of the sea lingo, Mum, and I dare say it's all
wrong," cried Will, suddenly going over to the enemy, to Geordie's
"I do wish the boys wouldn't talk to me as if I was a ship," said
Rose, bringing forward a private grievance. "Coming home from
church this morning, the wind blew me about, and Will called out,
right in the street, 'Brail up the foresail, and take in the flying-jib,
that will ease her.' "
The boys shouted at the plaintive tone in which Rose repeated the
words that offended her, and Will vainly endeavoured to explain
that he only meant to tell her to wrap her cloak closer, and tie a
veil over the tempest-tossed feathers in her hat.
"To tell the truth, if the boys must have slang, I can bear the 'sea
lingo,' as Will calls it, better than the other. It afflicts me less to
hear my sons talk about 'brailing up the foresail' than doing as they
'darn please,' and 'cut your cable' is decidedly preferable to 'let her
rip.' I once made a rule that I would have no slang in the house. I
give it up now, for I cannot keep it; but I will not have rubbishy
books; so, Archie, please send these two after your cigars."
Mrs. Jessie held both the small boys fast with an arm round each