Part 1 out of 6
Jack and Jill
by Louisa May Alcott
To the schoolmates of ELLSWORTH DEVENS,
Whose lovely character will not soon be forgotten,
This Village Story is affectionately inscribed by their friend,
Chapter I The Catastrophe
Chapter II Two Penitents
Chapter III Ward No. I
Chapter IV Ward No. 2
Chapter V Secrets
Chapter VI Surprises
Chapter VII Jill's Mission
Chapter VIII Merry and Molly
Chapter IX The Debating Club
Chapter X The Dramatic Club
Chapter XI "Down Brakes"
Chapter XII The Twenty-second of February
Chapter XIII Jack Has a Mystery
Chapter XIV And Jill Finds it out
Chapter XV Saint Lucy
Chapter XVI Up at Merry's
Chapter XVII Down at Molly's
Chapter XVIII May Baskets
Chapter XIX Good Templars
Chapter XX A Sweet Memory
Chapter XXI Pebbly Beach
Chapter XXII A Happy Day
Chapter XXIII Cattle Show
Chapter XXIV Down the River
Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To coast with fun and laughter;
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.
"Clear the lulla!" was the general cry on a bright December
afternoon, when all the boys and girls of Harmony Village were
out enjoying the first good snow of the season. Up and down three
long coasts they went as fast as legs and sleds could carry them.
One smooth path led into the meadow, and here the little folk
congregated; one swept across the pond, where skaters were
darting about like water-bugs; and the third, from the very top of
the steep hill, ended abruptly at a rail fence on the high bank above
the road. There was a group of lads and lasses sitting or leaning on
this fence to rest after an exciting race, and, as they reposed, they
amused themselves with criticising their mates, still absorbed in
this most delightful of out-door sports.
"Here comes Frank Minot, looking as solemn as a judge," cried
one, as a tall fellow of sixteen spun by, with a set look about the
mouth and a keen sparkle of the eyes, fixed on the distant goal
with a do-or-die expression.
"Here's Molly Loo
And little Boo!"
sang out another; and down came a girl with flying hair, carrying a
small boy behind her, so fat that his short legs stuck out from the
sides, and his round face looked over her shoulder like a full
"There's Gus Burton; doesn't he go it?" and such a very long boy
whizzed by, that it looked almost as if his heels were at the top of
the hill when his head was at the bottom!
"Hurrah for Ed Devlin!" and a general shout greeted a sweet-faced
lad, with a laugh on his lips, a fine color on his brown cheek, and a
gay word for every girl he passed.
"Laura and Lotty keep to the safe coast into the meadow, and
Molly Loo is the only girl that dares to try this long one to the
pond. I wouldn't for the world; the ice can't be strong yet, though it
is cold enough to freeze one's nose off," said a timid damsel, who
sat hugging a post and screaming whenever a mischievous lad
shook the fence.
"No, she isn't; here's Jack and Jill going like fury."
"Clear the track
For jolly Jack!"
sang the boys, who had rhymes and nicknames for nearly
Down came a gay red sled, bearing a boy who seemed all smile
and sunshine, so white were his teeth, so golden was his hair, so
bright and happy his whole air. Behind him clung a little gypsy of
a girl, with black eyes and hair, cheeks as red as her hood, and a
face full of fun and sparkle, as she waved Jack's blue tippet like a
banner with one hand, and held on with the other.
"Jill goes wherever Jack does, and he lets her. He's such a
good-natured chap, he can't say 'No.'"
"To a girl," slyly added one of the boys, who had wished to borrow
the red sled, and had been politely refused because Jill wanted it.
"He's the nicest boy in the world, for he never gets mad," said the
timid young lady, recalling the many times Jack had shielded her
from the terrors which beset her path to school, in the shape of
cows, dogs, and boys who made faces and called her "'Fraid-cat."
"He doesn't dare to get mad with Jill, for she'd take his head off in
two minutes if he did," growled Joe Flint, still smarting from the
rebuke Jill had given him for robbing the little ones of their safe
coast because he fancied it.
"She wouldn't! she's a dear! _You_ needn't sniff at her because she
is poor. She's ever so much brighter than you are, or she wouldn't
always be at the head of your class, old Joe," cried the girls,
standing by their friend with a unanimity which proved what a
favorite she was.
Joe subsided with as scornful a curl to his nose as its chilly state
permitted, and Merry Grant introduced a subject of general interest
by asking abruptly,--
"Who is going to the candy-scrape to-night?"
"All of us. Frank invited the whole set, and we shall have a tip-top
time. We always do at the Minots'," cried Sue, the timid trembler.
"Jack said there was a barrel of molasses in the house, so there
would be enough for all to eat and some to carry away. They know
how to do things handsomely;" and the speaker licked his lips, as if
already tasting the feast in store for him.
"Mrs. Minot is a mother worth having," said Molly Loo, coming up
with Boo on the sled; and she knew what it was to need a mother,
for she had none, and tried to care for the little brother with
maternal love and patience.
"She is just as sweet as she can be!" declared Merry,
"Especially when she has a candy-scrape," said Joe, trying to be
amiable, lest he should be left out of the party.
Whereat they all laughed, and went gayly away for a farewell
frolic, as the sun was setting and the keen wind nipped fingers and
toes as well as noses.
Down they went, one after another, on the various coasts,--solemn
Frank, long Gus, gallant Ed, fly-away Molly Loo, pretty Laura and
Lotty, grumpy Joe, sweet-faced Merry with Sue shrieking wildly
behind her, gay Jack and gypsy Jill, always together,--one and all
bubbling over with the innocent jollity born of healthful exercise.
People passing in the road below looked up and smiled involuntarily
at the red-cheeked lads and lasses, filling the frosty air with peals
of laughter and cries of triumph as they flew by in every conceivable
attitude; for the fun was at its height now, and the oldest and gravest
observers felt a glow of pleasure as they looked, remembering their own
"Jack, take me down that coast. Joe said I wouldn't dare to do it, so
I must," commanded Jill, as they paused for breath after the long
trudge up hill. Jill, of course, was not her real name, but had been
given because of her friendship with Jack, who so admired Janey
Pecq's spirit and fun.
"I guess I wouldn't. It is very bumpy and ends in a big drift; not
half so nice as this one. Hop on and we'll have a good spin across
the pond;" and Jack brought "Thunderbolt" round with a skilful
swing and an engaging air that would have won obedience from
anybody but wilful Jill.
"It is very nice, but I won't be told I don't 'dare' by any boy in the
world. If you are afraid, I'll go alone." And, before he could speak,
she had snatched the rope from his hand, thrown herself upon the
sled, and was off, helter-skelter, down the most dangerous coast on
She did not get far, however; for, starting in a hurry, she did not
guide her steed with care, and the red charger landed her in the
snow half-way down, where she lay laughing till Jack came to pick
"If you _will_ go, I'll take you down all right. I'm not afraid, for
I've done it a dozen times with the other fellows; but we gave it up
because it is short and bad," he said, still good-natured, though
a little hurt at the charge of cowardice; for Jack was as brave as a
little lion, and with the best sort of bravery,--the courage to do right.
"So it is; but I _must_ do it a few times, or Joe will plague me and
spoil my fun to-night," answered Jill, shaking her skirts and
rubbing her blue hands, wet and cold with the snow.
"Here, put these on; I never use them. Keep them if they fit; I only
carry them to please mother." And Jack pulled out a pair of red
mittens with the air of a boy used to giving away.
"They are lovely warm, and they do fit. Must be too small for your
paws, so I'll knit you a new pair for Christmas, and make you wear
them, too," said Jill, putting on the mittens with a nod of thanks,
and ending her speech with a stamp of her rubber boots to enforce
Jack laughed, and up they trudged to the spot whence the three
"Now, which will you have?" he asked, with a warning look in the
honest blue eyes which often unconsciously controlled naughty Jill
against her will.
"That one!" and the red mitten pointed firmly to the perilous path
"You will do it?"
"Come on, then, and hold tight."
Jack's smile was gone now, and he waited without a word while
Jill tucked herself up, then took his place in front, and off they
went on the brief, breathless trip straight into the drift by the fence
"I don't see anything very awful in that. Come up and have another.
Joe is watching us, and I'd like to show him that _we_ aren't afraid of
anything," said Jill, with a defiant glance at a distant boy, who had
paused to watch the descent.
"It is a regular 'go-bang,' if that is what you like," answered Jack,
as they plowed their way up again.
"It is. You boys think girls like little mean coasts without any fun
or danger in them, as if we couldn't be brave and strong as well as
you. Give me three go-bangs and then we'll stop. My tumble
doesn't count, so give me two more and then I'll be good."
Jill took her seat as she spoke, and looked up with such a rosy,
pleading face that Jack gave in at once, and down they went again,
raising a cloud of glittering snow-dust as they reined up in fine
style with their feet on the fence.
"It's just splendid! Now, one more!" cried Jill, excited by the
cheers of a sleighing party passing below.
Proud of his skill, Jack marched back, resolved to make the third
"go" the crowning achievement of the afternoon, while Jill pranced
after him as lightly as if the big boots were the famous
seven-leagued ones, and chattering about the candy-scrape and
whether there would be nuts or not.
So full were they of this important question, that they piled on
hap-hazard, and started off still talking so busily that Jill forgot to
hold tight and Jack to steer carefully. Alas, for the candy-scrape
that never was to be! Alas, for poor "Thunderbolt" blindly setting
forth on the last trip he ever made! And oh, alas, for Jack and Jill,
who wilfully chose the wrong road and ended their fun for the
winter! No one knew how it happened, but instead of landing in
the drift, or at the fence, there was a great crash against the bars, a
dreadful plunge off the steep bank, a sudden scattering of girl, boy,
sled, fence, earth, and snow, all about the road, two cries, and then
"I knew they'd do it!" and, standing on the post where he had
perched, Joe waved his arms and shouted: "Smash-up! Smash-up!
Run! Run!" like a raven croaking over a battlefield when the fight
Down rushed boys and girls ready to laugh or cry, as the case
might be, for accidents will happen on the best-regulated
coasting-grounds. They found Jack sitting up looking about him
with a queer, dazed expression, while an ugly cut on the forehead
was bleeding in a way which sobered the boys and frightened the
girls half out of their wits.
"He's killed! He's killed!" wailed Sue, hiding her face and
beginning to cry.
"No, I'm not. I'll be all right when I get my breath. Where's Jill?"
asked Jack, stoutly, though still too giddy to see straight.
The group about him opened, and his comrade in misfortune was
discovered lying quietly in the snow with all the pretty color
shocked out of her face by the fall, and winking rapidly, as if half
stunned. But no wounds appeared, and when asked if she was
dead, she answered in a vague sort of way,--
"I guess not. Is Jack hurt?"
"Broken his head," croaked Joe, stepping aside, that she might
behold the fallen hero vainly trying to look calm and cheerful with
red drops running down his cheek and a lump on his forehead.
Jill shut her eyes and waved the girls away, saying, faintly,--
"Never mind me. Go and see to him."
"Don't! I'm all right," and Jack tried to get up in order to prove that
headers off a bank were mere trifles to him; but at the first
movement of the left leg he uttered a sharp cry of pain, and would
have fallen if Gus had not caught and gently laid him down.
"What is it, old chap?" asked Frank, kneeling beside him, really
alarmed now, the hurts seeming worse than mere bumps, which
were common affairs among baseball players, and not worth much
"I lit on my head, but I guess I've broken my leg. Don't frighten
mother," and Jack held fast to Frank's arm as he looked into the
anxious face bent over him; for, though the elder tyrannized over
the younger, the brothers loved one another dearly.
"Lift his head, Frank, while I tie my handkerchief round to stop the
bleeding," said a quiet voice, as Ed Devlin laid a handful of soft
snow on the wound; and Jack's face brightened as he turned to
thank the one big boy who never was rough with the small ones.
"Better get him right home," advised Gus, who stood by looking
on, with his little sisters Laura and Lotty clinging to him.
"Take Jill, too, for it's my opinion she has broken her back. She
can't stir one bit," announced Molly Loo, with a droll air of
triumph, as if rather pleased than otherwise to have her patient hurt
the worse; for Jack's wound was very effective, and Molly had a
taste for the tragic.
This cheerful statement was greeted with a wail from Susan and
howls from Boo, who had earned that name from the ease with
which, on all occasions, he could burst into a dismal roar without
shedding a tear, and stop as suddenly as he began.
"Oh, I am so sorry! It was my fault; I shouldn't have let her do it,"
said Jack, distressfully.
"It was all _my_ fault; I made him. If I'd broken every bone I've got,
it would serve me right. Don't help me, anybody; I'm a wicked
thing, and I deserve to lie here and freeze and starve and die!"
cried Jill, piling up punishments in her remorseful anguish of mind
"But we want to help you, and we can settle about blame by and
by," whispered Merry with a kiss; for she adored dashing Jill, and
never would own that she did wrong.
"Here come the wood-sleds just in time. I'll cut away and tell one
of them to hurry up." And, freeing himself from his sisters, Gus
went off at a great pace, proving that the long legs carried a
sensible head as well as a kind heart.
As the first sled approached, an air of relief pervaded the agitated
party, for it was driven by Mr. Grant, a big, benevolent-looking
farmer, who surveyed the scene with the sympathetic interest of a
man and a father.
"Had a little accident, have you? Well, that's a pretty likely place
for a spill. Tried it once myself and broke the bridge of my nose,"
he said, tapping that massive feature with a laugh which showed
that fifty years of farming had not taken all the boy out of him.
"Now then, let's see about this little chore, and lively, too, for it's
late, and these parties ought to be housed," he added, throwing
down his whip, pushing back his cap, and nodding at the wounded
with a reassuring smile.
"Jill first, please, sir," said Ed, the gentle squire of dames,
spreading his overcoat on the sled as eagerly as ever Raleigh laid
down his velvet cloak for a queen to walk upon.
"All right. Just lay easy, my dear, and I won't hurt you a mite if I
can help it."
Careful as Mr. Grant was, Jill could have screamed with pain as he
lifted her; but she set her lips and bore it with the courage of a
little Indian; for all the lads were looking on, and Jill was proud to
show that a girl could bear as much as a boy. She hid her face in
the coat as soon as she was settled, to hide the tears that would
come, and by the time Jack was placed beside her, she had quite a
little cistern of salt water stored up in Ed's coat-pocket.
Then the mournful procession set forth, Mr. Grant driving the
oxen, the girls clustering about the interesting invalids on the sled,
while the boys came behind like a guard of honor, leaving the hill
deserted by all but Joe, who had returned to hover about the fatal
fence, and poor "Thunderbolt," split asunder, lying on the bank to
mark the spot where the great catastrophe occurred.
Jack and Jill never cared to say much about the night which
followed the first coasting party of the season, for it was the
saddest and the hardest their short lives had ever known. Jack
suffered most in body; for the setting of the broken leg was such a
painful job, that it wrung several sharp cries from him, and made
Frank, who helped, quite weak and white with sympathy, when it
was over. The wounded head ached dreadfully, and the poor boy
felt as if bruised all over, for he had the worst of the fall. Dr.
Whiting spoke cheerfully of the case, and made so light of broken
legs, that Jack innocently asked if he should not be up in a week or
"Well, no; it usually takes twenty-one days for bones to knit, and
young ones make quick work of it," answered the doctor, with a
last scientific tuck to the various bandages, which made Jack feel
like a hapless chicken trussed for the spit.
"Twenty-one days! Three whole weeks in bed! I shouldn't call that
quick work," groaned the dismayed patient, whose experience of
illness had been limited.
"It is a forty days' job, young man, and you must make up your
mind to bear it like a hero. We will do our best; but next time, look
before you leap, and save your bones. Good-night; you'll feel
better in the morning. No jigs, remember;" and off went the busy
doctor for another look at Jill, who had been ordered to bed and
left to rest till the other case was attended to.
Any one would have thought Jack's plight much the worse, but the
doctor looked more sober over Jill's hurt back than the boy's
compound fractures; and the poor little girl had a very bad quarter
of an hour while he was trying to discover the extent of the injury.
"Keep her quiet, and time will show how much damage is done,"
was all he said in her hearing; but if she had known that he told
Mrs. Pecq he feared serious consequences, she would not have
wondered why her mother cried as she rubbed the numb limbs and
placed the pillows so tenderly.
Jill suffered most in her mind; for only a sharp stab of pain now
and then reminded her of her body; but her remorseful little soul
gave her no peace for thinking of Jack, whose bruises and
breakages her lively fancy painted in the darkest colors.
"Oh, don't be good to me, Mammy; I made him go, and now he's
hurt dreadfully, and may die; and it is all my fault, and everybody
ought to hate me," sobbed poor Jill, as a neighbor left the room
after reporting in a minute manner how Jack screamed when his
leg was set, and how Frank was found white as a sheet, with his
head under the pump, while Gus restored the tone of his friend's
nerves, by pumping as if the house was on fire.
"Whist, my lass, and go to sleep. Take a sup of the good wine Mrs.
Minot sent, for you are as cold as a clod, and it breaks my heart to
see my Janey so."
"I can't go to sleep; I don't see how Jack's mother could send me
anything when I've half killed him. I want to be cold and ache and
have horrid things done to me. Oh, if I ever get out of this bed I'll
be the best girl in the world, to pay for this. See if I ain't!" and Jill
gave such a decided nod that her tears flew all about the pillow
like a shower.
"You'd better begin at once, for you won't get out of that bed for a
long while, I'm afraid, my lamb," sighed her mother, unable to
conceal the anxiety that lay so heavy on her heart.
"Am I hurt badly, Mammy?"
"I fear it, lass."
"I'm _glad_ of it; I ought to be worse than Jack, and I hope I am. I'll
bear it well, and be good right away. Sing, Mammy, and I'll try to
go to sleep to please you."
Jill shut her eyes with sudden and unusual meekness, and before
her mother had crooned half a dozen verses of an old ballad, the
little black head lay still upon the pillow, and repentant Jill was
fast asleep with a red mitten in her hand.
Mrs. Pecq was an Englishwoman who had left Montreal at the
death of her husband, a French Canadian, and had come to live in
the tiny cottage which stood near Mrs. Minot's big house,
separated only by an arbor-vitae hedge. A sad, silent person, who
had seen better days, but said nothing about them, and earned her
bread by sewing, nursing, work in the factory, or anything that
came in her way, being anxious to educate her little girl. Now, as
she sat beside the bed in the small, poor room, that hope almost
died within her, for here was the child laid up for months,
probably, and the one ambition and pleasure of the solitary
woman's life was to see Janey Pecq's name over all the high marks
in the school-reports she proudly brought home.
"She'll win through, please Heaven, and I'll see my lass a
gentlewoman yet, thanks to the good friend in yonder, who will
never let her want for care," thought the poor soul, looking out into
the gloom where a long ray of light streamed from the great house
warm and comfortable upon the cottage, like the spirit of kindness
which made the inmates friends and neighbors.
Meantime, that other mother sat by her boy's bed as anxious but
with better hope, for Mrs. Minot made trouble sweet and helpful
by the way in which she bore it; and her boys were learning of her
how to find silver linings to the clouds that must come into the
Jack lay wide awake, with hot cheeks, and throbbing head, and all
sorts of queer sensations in the broken leg. The soothing potion he
had taken did not affect him yet, and he tried to beguile the weary
time by wondering who came and went below. Gentle rings at the
front door, and mysterious tappings at the back, had been going on
all the evening; for the report of the accident had grown
astonishingly in its travels, and at eight o'clock the general belief
was that Jack had broken both legs, fractured his skull, and lay at
the point of death, while Jill had dislocated one shoulder, and was
bruised black and blue from top to toe. Such being the case, it is
no wonder that anxious playmates and neighbors haunted the
doorsteps of the two houses, and that offers of help poured in.
Frank, having tied up the bell and put a notice in the lighted
side-window, saying, "Go to the back door," sat in the parlor,
supported by his chum, Gus, while Ed played softly on the piano,
hoping to lull Jack to sleep. It did soothe him, for a very sweet
friendship existed between the tall youth and the lad of thirteen.
Ed went with the big fellows, but always had a kind word for the
smaller boys; and affectionate Jack, never ashamed to show his
love, was often seen with his arm round Ed's shoulder, as they sat
together in the pleasant red parlors, where all the young people
were welcome and Frank was king.
"Is the pain any easier, my darling?" asked Mrs. Minot, leaning
over the pillow, where the golden head lay quiet for a moment.
"Not much. I forget it listening to the music. Dear old Ed is
playing all my favorite tunes, and it is very nice. I guess he feels
pretty sorry about me."
"They all do. Frank could not talk of it. Gus wouldn't go home to
tea, he was so anxious to do something for us. Joe brought back
the bits of your poor sled, because he didn't like to leave them
lying round for any one to carry off, he said, and you might like
them to remember your fall by."
Jack tried to laugh, but it was rather a failure, though be managed
to say, cheerfully,--
"That was good of old Joe. I wouldn't lend him 'Thunderbolt' for
fear he'd hurt it. Couldn't have smashed it up better than I did,
could he? Don't think I want any pieces to remind me of _that_ fall.
I just wish you'd seen us, mother! It must have been a splendid
spill to look at, any way."
"No, thank you; I'd rather not even try to imagine my precious boy
going heels over head down that dreadful hill. No more pranks of
that sort for some time, Jacky;" and Mrs. Minot looked rather
pleased on the whole to have her venturesome bird safe under her
"No coasting till some time in January. What a fool I was to do it!
Go-bangs always are dangerous, and that's the fun of the thing. Oh
Jack threw his arms about and frowned darkly, but never said a
word of the wilful little baggage who had led him into mischief; he
was too much of a gentleman to tell on a girl, though it cost him an
effort to hold his tongue, because Mamma's good opinion was very
precious to him, and he longed to explain. She knew all about it,
however, for Jill had been carried into the house reviling herself
for the mishap, and even in the midst of her own anxiety for her
boy, Mrs. Minot understood the state of the case without more
words. So she now set his mind at rest by saying, quietly.
"Foolish fun, as you see, dear. Another time, stand firm and help
Jill to control her headstrong will. When you learn to yield less and
she more, there will be no scrapes like this to try us all."
"I'll remember, mother. I hate not to be obliging, but I guess it
would have saved us lots of trouble if I'd said No in the
beginning. I tried to, but she _would_ go. Poor Jill! I'll take better
care of her next time. Is she very ill, Mamma?"
"I can tell you better to-morrow. She does not suffer much, and we
hope there is no great harm done."
"I wish she had a nice place like this to be sick in. It must be very
poky in those little rooms," said Jack, as his eye roved round the
large chamber where he lay so cosey, warm, and pleasant, with the
gay chintz curtains draping doors and windows, the rosy carpet,
comfortable chairs, and a fire glowing in the grate.
"I shall see that she suffers for nothing, so don't trouble your kind
heart about her to-night, but try to sleep; that's what you need,"
answered his mother, wetting the bandage on his forehead, and
putting a cool hand on the flushed cheeks.
Jack obediently closed his eyes and listened while the boys sang
"The Sweet By and By," softening their rough young voices for his
sake till the music was as soft as a lullaby. He lay so still his
mother thought he was off, but presently a tear slipped out and
rolled down the red cheek, wetting her hand as it passed.
"My blessed boy, what is it?" she whispered, with a touch and a
tone that only mothers have.
The blue eyes opened wide, and Jack's own sunshiny smile broke
through the tears that filled them as he said with a sniff,--
"Everybody is so good to me I can't help making a noodle of
"You are not a noodle!" cried Mamma, resenting the epithet. "One
of the sweet things about pain and sorrow is that they show us how
well we are loved, how much kindness there is in the world, and
how easily we can make others happy in the same way when they
need help and sympathy. Don't forget that, little son."
"Don't see how I can, with you to show me how nice it is. Kiss me
good-night, and then 'I'll be good,' as Jill says."
Nestling his head upon his mother's arm, Jack lay quiet till, lulled
by the music of his mates, he drowsed away into the dreamless
sleep which is Nurse Nature's healthiest soothing sirup for weary
souls and bodies.
Ward No. 1
For some days, nothing was seen and little was heard of the "dear
sufferers," as the old ladies called them. But they were not
forgotten; the first words uttered when any of the young people
met were: "How is Jack?" "Seen Jill yet?" and all waited with
impatience for the moment when they could be admitted to their
favorite mates, more than ever objects of interest now.
Meantime, the captives spent the first few days in sleep, pain, and
trying to accept the hard fact that school and play were done with
for months perhaps. But young spirits are wonderfully elastic and
soon cheer up, and healthy young bodies heal fast, or easily adapt
themselves to new conditions. So our invalids began to mend on
the fourth day, and to drive their nurses distracted with efforts to
amuse them, before the first week was over.
The most successful attempt originated in Ward No. 1, as Mrs.
Minot called Jack's apartment, and we will give our sympathizing
readers some idea of this place, which became the stage whereon
were enacted many varied and remarkable scenes.
Each of the Minot boys had his own room, and there collected his
own treasures and trophies, arranged to suit his convenience and
taste. Frank's was full of books, maps, machinery, chemical
messes, and geometrical drawings, which adorned the walls like
intricate cobwebs. A big chair, where he read and studied with his
heels higher than his head, a basket of apples for refreshment at all
hours of the day or night, and an immense inkstand, in which
several pens were always apparently bathing their feet, were the
principal ornaments of his scholastic retreat.
Jack's hobby was athletic sports, for he was bent on having a
strong and active body for his happy little soul to live and enjoy
itself in. So a severe simplicity reigned in his apartment; in
summer, especially, for then his floor was bare, his windows were
uncurtained, and the chairs uncushioned, the bed being as narrow
and hard as Napoleon's. The only ornaments were dumbbells,
whips, bats, rods, skates, boxing-gloves, a big bath-pan and a small
library, consisting chiefly of books on games, horses, health,
hunting, and travels. In winter his mother made things more
comfortable by introducing rugs, curtains, and a fire. Jack, also,
relented slightly in the severity of his training, occasionally
indulging in the national buckwheat cake, instead of the prescribed
oatmeal porridge, for breakfast, omitting his cold bath when the
thermometer was below zero, and dancing at night, instead of
running a given distance by day.
Now, however, he was a helpless captive, given over to all sorts of
coddling, laziness, and luxury, and there was a droll mixture of
mirth and melancholy in his face, as he lay trussed up in bed,
watching the comforts which had suddenly robbed his room of its
Spartan simplicity. A delicious couch was there, with Frank
reposing in its depths, half hidden under several folios which he
was consulting for a history of the steam-engine, the subject of his
A white-covered table stood near, with all manner of dainties set
forth in a way to tempt the sternest principles. Vases of flowers
bloomed on the chimney-piece,--gifts from anxious young ladies,
left with their love. Frivolous story-books and picture-papers
strewed the bed, now shrouded in effeminate chintz curtains,
beneath which Jack lay like a wounded warrior in his tent. But the
saddest sight for our crippled athlete was a glimpse, through a
half-opened door, at the beloved dumb-bells, bats, balls,
boxing-gloves, and snow-shoes, all piled ignominiously away in
the bath-pan, mournfully recalling the fact that their day was over,
now, at least for some time.
He was about to groan dismally, when his eye fell on a sight which
made him swallow the groan, and cough instead, as if it choked
him a little. The sight was his mother's face, as she sat in a low
chair rolling bandages, with a basket beside her in which were
piles of old linen, lint, plaster, and other matters, needed for the
dressing of wounds. As he looked, Jack remembered how steadily
and tenderly she had stood by him all through the hard times just
past, and how carefully she had bathed and dressed his wound each
day in spite of the effort it cost her to give him pain or even see
"That's a better sort of strength than swinging twenty-pound
dumb-bells or running races; I guess I'll try for that kind, too, and
not howl or let her see me squirm when the doctor hurts," thought
the boy, as he saw that gentle face so pale and tired with much
watching and anxiety, yet so patient, serene, and cheerful, that it
was like sunshine.
"Lie down and take a good nap, mother dear, I feel first-rate, and
Frank can see to me if I want anything. Do, now," he added, with a
persuasive nod toward the couch, and a boyish relish in stirring up
his lazy brother.
After some urging, Mamma consented to go to her room for forty
winks, leaving Jack in the care of Frank, begging him to be as
quiet as possible if the dear boy wished to sleep, and to amuse him
if he did not.
Being worn out, Mrs. Minot lengthened her forty winks into a
three hours' nap, and as the "dear boy" scorned repose, Mr. Frank
had his hands full while on guard.
"I'll read to you. Here's Watt, Arkwright, Fulton, and a lot of
capital fellows, with pictures that will do your heart good. Have a
bit, will you?" asked the new nurse, flapping the leaves invitingly.--
for Frank had a passion for such things, and drew steam-engines
all over his slate, as Tommy Traddles drew hosts of skeletons
when low in his spirits.
"I don't want any of your old boilers and stokers and whirligigs.
I'm tired of reading, and want something regularly jolly," answered
Jack, who had been chasing white buffaloes with "The Hunters of
the West," till he was a trifle tired and fractious.
"Play cribbage, euchre, anything you like;" and Frank obligingly
disinterred himself from under the folios, feeling that it _was_
hard for a fellow to lie flat a whole week.
"No fun; just two of us. Wish school was over, so the boys would
come in; doctor said I might see them now."
"They'll be along by and by, and I'll hail them. Till then, what
shall we do? I'm your man for anything, only put a name to it."
"Just wish I had a telegraph or a telephone, so I could talk to Jill.
Wouldn't it be fun to pipe across and get an answer!"
"I'll make either you say;" and Frank looked as if trifles of that sort
were to be had for the asking.
"Could you, really?"
"We'll start the telegraph first, then you can send things over if you
like," said Frank, prudently proposing the surest experiment.
"Go ahead, then. I'd like that, and so would Jill, for I know she
wants to hear from me."
"There's one trouble, though; I shall have to leave you alone for a
few minutes while I rig up the ropes;" and Frank looked sober, for
he was a faithful boy, and did not want to desert his post.
"Oh, never mind; I won't want anything. If I do, I can pound for
"And wake mother. I'll fix you a better way than that;" and, full of
inventive genius, our young Edison spliced the poker to part of a
fishing-rod in a jiffy, making a long-handled hook which reached
across the room.
"There's an arm for you; now hook away, and let's see how it
works," he said, handing over the instrument to Jack, who
proceeded to show its unexpected capabilities by hooking the cloth
off the table in attempting to get his handkerchief, catching Frank
by the hair when fishing for a book, and breaking a pane of glass in
trying to draw down the curtain.
"It's so everlasting long, I can't manage it," laughed Jack, as it
finally caught in his bed-hangings, and nearly pulled them, ring
and all, down upon his head.
"Let it alone, unless you need something very much, and don't
bother about the glass. It's just what we want for the telegraph wire
or rope to go through. Keep still, and I'll have the thing running in
ten minutes;" and, delighted with the job, Frank hurried away,
leaving Jack to compose a message to send as soon as it was
"What in the world is that flying across the Minots' yard,--a brown
hen or a boy's kite?" exclaimed old Miss Hopkins, peering out of
her window at the singular performances going on in her opposite
First, Frank appeared with a hatchet and chopped a clear space in
the hedge between his own house and the cottage; next, a clothes
line was passed through this aperture and fastened somewhere on
the other side; lastly, a small covered basket, slung on this rope,
was seen hitching along, drawn either way by a set of strings; then,
as if satisfied with his job, Frank retired, whistling "Hail
"It's those children at their pranks again. I thought broken bones
wouldn't keep them out of mischief long," said the old lady,
watching with great interest the mysterious basket travelling up
and down the rope from the big house to the cottage.
If she had seen what came and went over the wires of the "Great
International Telegraph," she would have laughed till her
spectacles flew off her Roman nose. A letter from Jack, with a
large orange, went first, explaining the new enterprise:--
"Dear Jill,--It's too bad you can't come over to see me. I am pretty
well, but awful tired of keeping still. I want to see you ever so
much. Frank has fixed us a telegraph, so we can write and send
things. Won't it be jolly! I can't look out to see him do it; but, when
you pull your string, my little bell rings, and I know a message is
coming. I send you an orange. Do you like _gorver_ jelly? People
send in lots of goodies, and we will go halves. Good-by.
Away went the basket, and in fifteen minutes it came back from
the cottage with nothing in it but the orange.
"Hullo! Is she mad?" asked Jack, as Frank brought the despatch for
him to examine.
But, at the first touch, the hollow peel opened, and out fell a letter,
two gum-drops, and an owl made of a peanut, with round eyes
drawn at the end where the stem formed a funny beak. Two bits of
straw were the legs, and the face looked so like Dr. Whiting that
both boys laughed at the sight.
"That's so like Jill; she'd make fun if she was half dead. Let's see
what she says;" and Jack read the little note, which showed a sad
neglect of the spelling-book:--
"Dear Jacky,--I can't stir and it's horrid. The telly graf is very nice
and we will have fun with it. I never ate any _gorver_ jelly. The
orange was first rate. Send me a book to read. All about bears and
ships and crockydiles. The doctor was coming to see you, so I sent
him the quickest way. Molly Loo says it is dreadful lonesome at
school without us. Yours truly,
Jack immediately despatched the book and a sample of guava
jelly, which unfortunately upset on the way, to the great detriment
of "The Wild Beasts of Asia and Africa." Jill promptly responded
with the loan of a tiny black kitten, who emerged spitting and
scratching, to Jack's great delight; and he was cudgelling his brains
as to how a fat white rabbit could be transported, when a shrill
whistle from without saved Jill from that inconvenient offering.
"It's the fellows; do you want to see them?" asked Frank, gazing
down with calm superiority upon the three eager faces which
looked up at him.
"Guess I do!" and Jack promptly threw the kitten overboard,
scorning to be seen by any manly eye amusing himself with such
Bang! went the front door; tramp, tramp, tramp, came six booted
feet up the stairs; and, as Frank threw wide the door, three large
beings paused on the threshold to deliver the courteous "Hullo!"
which is the established greeting among boys on all social
"Come along, old fellows; I'm ever so glad to see you!" cried the
invalid, with such energetic demonstrations of the arms that he
looked as if about to fly or crow, like an excited young cockerel.
"How are you, Major?"
"Does the leg ache much, Jack?"
"Mr. Phipps says you'll have to pay for the new rails."
With these characteristic greetings, the gentlemen cast away their
hats and sat down, all grinning cheerfully, and all with eyes
irresistibly fixed upon the dainties, which proved too much for the
politeness of ever-hungry boys.
"Help yourselves," said Jack, with a hospitable wave. "All the dear
old ladies in town have been sending in nice things, and I can't
begin to eat them up. Lend a hand and clear away this lot, or we
shall have to throw them out of the window. Bring on the doughnuts
and the tarts and the shaky stuff in the entry closet, Frank, and
let's have a lark."
No sooner said than done. Gus took the tarts, Joe the doughnuts,
Ed the jelly, and Frank suggested "spoons all round" for the Italian
cream. A few trifles in the way of custard, fruit, and wafer biscuits
were not worth mentioning; but every dish was soon emptied, and
Jack said, as he surveyed the scene of devastation with great
"Call again to-morrow, gentlemen, and we will have another bout.
Free lunches at 5 P.M. till further notice. Now tell me all the
For half an hour, five tongues went like mill clappers, and there is
no knowing when they would have stopped if the little bell had not
suddenly rung with a violence that made them jump.
"That's Jill; see what she wants, Frank;" and while his brother sent
off the basket, Jack told about the new invention, and invited his
mates to examine and admire.
They did so, and shouted with merriment when the next despatch
from Jill arrived. A pasteboard jumping-jack, with one leg done up
in cotton-wool to preserve the likeness, and a great lump of
molasses candy in a brown paper, with accompanying note:--
"Dear Sir,--I saw the boys go in, and know you are having a nice
time, so I send over the candy Molly Loo and Merry brought me.
Mammy says I can't eat it, and it will all melt away if I keep it.
Also a picture of Jack Minot, who will dance on one leg and
waggle the other, and make you laugh. I wish I could come, too.
Don't you hate grewel? I do.--In haste,
"Let's all send her a letter," proposed Jack, and out came pens, ink,
paper, and the lamp, and every one fell to scribbling. A droll
collection was the result, for Frank drew a picture of the fatal fall
with broken rails flying in every direction, Jack with his head
swollen to the size of a balloon, and Jill in two pieces, while the
various boys and girls were hit off with a sly skill that gave Gus
legs like a stork, Molly Loo hair several yards long, and Boo a
series of visible howls coming out of an immense mouth in the
shape of o's. The oxen were particularly good, for their horns
branched like those of the moose, and Mr. Grant had a patriarchal
beard which waved in the breeze as he bore the wounded girl to a
sled very like a funeral pyre, the stakes being crowned with big
mittens like torches.
"You ought to be an artist. I never saw such a dabster as you are.
That's the very moral of Joe, all in a bunch on the fence, with a
blot to show how purple his nose was," said Gus, holding up the
sketch for general criticism and admiration.
"I'd rather have a red nose than legs like a grasshopper; so you
needn't twit, Daddy," growled Joe, quite unconscious that a blot
actually did adorn his nose, as he labored over a brief despatch.
The boys enjoyed the joke, and one after the other read out his
message to the captive lady:--
"Dear Jill,--Sorry you ain't here. Great fun. Jack pretty lively.
Laura and Lot would send love if they knew of the chance. Fly round
and get well.
"Dear Gilliflower,--Hope you are pretty comfortable in your
'dungeon cell.' Would you like a serenade when the moon comes?
Hope you will soon be up again, for we miss you very much. Shall
be very happy to help in any way I can. Love to your mother. Your
"_Dear Madam_,--I am happy to tell you that we are all well, and hope
you are the same. I gave Jem Cox a licking because he went to
your desk. You had better send for your books. You won't have to
pay for the sled or the fence. Jack says he will see to it. We have
been having a spread over here. First-rate things. I wouldn't mind
breaking a leg, if I had such good grub and no chores to do. No
more now, from yours, with esteem,
"Joseph P. Flint"
Joe thought that an elegant epistle, having copied portions of it
from the "Letter Writer," and proudly read it off to the boys, who
assured him that Jill would be much impressed.
"Now, Jack, hurry up and let us send the lot off, for we must go,"
said Gus, as Frank put the letters in the basket, and the clatter of
tea-things was heard below.
"I'm not going to show mine. It's private and you mustn't look,"
answered Jack, patting down an envelope with such care that no
one had a chance to peep.
But Joe had seen the little note copied, and while the others were
at the window working the telegraph he caught up the original,
carelessly thrust by Jack under the pillow, and read it aloud before
any one knew what he was about.
"My Dear,--I wish I could send you some of my good times. As I
can't, I send you much love, and I hope you will try and be patient
as I am going to, for it was our fault, and we must not make a fuss
now. Ain't mothers sweet? Mine is coming over to-morrow to see
you and tell me how you are. This round thing is a kiss for
"Isn't that spoony? You'd better hide your face, I think. He's getting
to be a regular mollycoddle, isn't he?" jeered Joe, as the boys
laughed, and then grew sober, seeing Jack's head buried in the
bedclothes, after sending a pillow at his tormentor.
It nearly hit Mrs. Minot, coming in with her patient's tea on a tray,
and at sight of her the guests hurriedly took leave, Joe nearly
tumbling downstairs to escape from Frank, who would have
followed, if his mother had not said quickly, "Stay, and tell me
what is the matter."
"Only teasing Jack a bit. Don't be mad, old boy, Joe didn't mean
any harm, and it _was_ rather soft, now wasn't it?" asked Frank,
trying to appease the wounded feelings of his brother.
"I charged you not to worry him. Those boys were too much for the
poor dear, and I ought not to have left him," said Mamma, as she
vainly endeavored to find and caress the yellow head burrowed so
far out of sight that nothing but one red ear was visible.
"He liked it, and we got on capitally till Joe roughed him about
Jill. Ah, Joe's getting it now! I thought Gus and Ed would do that
little job for me," added Frank, running to the window as the sound
of stifled cries and laughter reached him.
The red ear heard also, and Jack popped up his head to ask, with
"What are they doing to him?"
"Rolling him in the snow, and he's howling like fun."
"Serves him right," muttered Jack, with a frown. Then, as a wail
arose suggestive of an unpleasant mixture of snow in the mouth
and thumps on the back, he burst out laughing, and said,
good-naturedly, "Go and stop them, Frank; I won't mind, only tell
him it was a mean trick. Hurry! Gus is so strong he doesn't know
how his pounding hurts."
Off ran Frank, and Jack told his wrongs to his mother. She
sympathized heartily, and saw no harm in the affectionate little
note, which would please Jill, and help her to bear her trials
"It isn't silly to be fond of her, is it? She is so nice and funny, and
tries to be good, and likes me, and I won't be ashamed of my
friends, if folks do laugh," protested Jack, with a rap of his
"No, dear, it is quite kind and proper, and I'd rather have you play
with a merry little girl than with rough boys till you are big enough
to hold your own," answered Mamma, putting the cup to his lips
that the reclining lad might take his broma without spilling.
"Pooh! I don't mean that; I'm strong enough now to take care of
myself," cried Jack, stoutly. "I can thrash Joe any day, if I like. Just
look at my arm; there's muscle for you!" and up went a sleeve, to
the great danger of overturning the tray, as the boy proudly
displayed his biceps and expanded his chest, both of which were
very fine for a lad of his years. "If I'd been on my legs, he
wouldn't have dared to insult me, and it was cowardly to hit a
fellow when he was down."
Mrs. Minot wanted to laugh at Jack's indignation, but the bell rang,
and she had to go and pull in the basket, much amused at the new
Burning to distinguish herself in the eyes of the big boys, Jill had
sent over a tall, red flannel night-cap, which she had been making
for some proposed Christmas plays, and added the following verse,
for she was considered a gifted rhymester at the game parties:--
"When it comes night,
We put out the light.
Some blow with a puff,
Some turn down and snuff;
But neat folks prefer
A nice extinguis_her_.
So here I send you back
One to put on Mr. Jack."
"Now, I call that regularly smart; not one of us could do it, and I
just wish Joe was here to see it. I want to send once more,
something good for tea; she hates gruel so;" and the last despatch
which the Great International Telegraph carried that day was a
baked apple and a warm muffin, with "J. M.'s best regards."
Ward No. 2.
Things were not so gay in Ward No. 2, for Mrs. Pecq was very busy,
and Jill had nothing to amuse her but flying visits from the girls,
and such little plays as she could invent for herself in bed.
Fortunately, she had a lively fancy, and so got on pretty well, till
keeping still grew unbearable, and the active child ached in every
limb to be up and out. That, however, was impossible, for the least
attempt to sit or stand brought on the pain that took her breath
away and made her glad to lie flat again. The doctor spoke cheerfully,
but looked sober, and Mrs. Pecq began to fear that Janey was to be a
cripple for life. She said nothing, but Jill's quick eyes saw an
added trouble in the always anxious face, and it depressed her spirits,
though she never guessed half the mischief the fall had done.
The telegraph was a great comfort, and the two invalids kept up a
lively correspondence, not to say traffic in light articles, for
the Great International was the only aerial express in existence.
But even this amusement flagged after a time; neither had much to
tell, and when the daily health bulletins had been exchanged,
messages gave out, and the basket's travels grew more and more
infrequent. Neither could read all the time, games were soon used
up, their mates were at school most of the day, and after a week
or two the poor children began to get pale and fractious with the
confinement, always so irksome to young people.
"I do believe the child will fret herself into a fever, mem, and I'm
clean distraught to know what to do for her. She never used to
mind trifles, but now she frets about the oddest things, and I can't
change them. This wall-paper is well enough, but she has taken a
fancy that the spots on it look like spiders, and it makes her
nervous. I've no other warm place to put her, and no money for a
new paper. Poor lass! There are hard times before her, I'm fearing."
Mrs. Pecq said this in a low voice to Mrs. Minot, who came in as
often as she could, to see what her neighbor needed; for both
mothers were anxious, and sympathy drew them to one another.
While one woman talked, the other looked about the little room,
not wondering in the least that Jill found it hard to be contented
there. It was very neat, but so plain that there was not even a
picture on the walls, nor an ornament upon the mantel, except the
necessary clock, lamp, and match-box. The paper _was_ ugly, being
a deep buff with a brown figure that did look very like spiders
sprawling over it, and might well make one nervous to look at day
Jill was asleep in the folding chair Dr. Whiting had sent, with a
mattress to make it soft. The back could be raised or lowered at
will; but only a few inches had been gained as yet, and the thin
hair pillow was all she could bear. She looked very pretty as she
lay, with dark lashes against the feverish cheeks, lips apart, and a
cloud of curly black locks all about the face pillowed on one arm.
She seemed like a brilliant little flower in that dull place,--for the
French blood in her veins gave her a color, warmth, and grace
which were very charming. Her natural love of beauty showed
itself in many ways: a red ribbon had tied up her hair, a gay but
faded shawl was thrown over the bed, and the gifts sent her were
arranged with care upon the table by her side among her own few
toys and treasures. There was something pathetic in this childish
attempt to beautify the poor place, and Mrs. Minot's eyes were full
as she looked at the tired woman, whose one joy and comfort lay
there in such sad plight.
"My dear soul, cheer up, and we will help one another through the
hard times," she said, with a soft hand on the rough one, and a look
that promised much.
"Please God, we will, mem! With such good friends, I never
should complain. I try not to do it, but it breaks my heart to see my
little lass spoiled for life, most like;" and Mrs. Pecq pressed the
kind hand with a despondent sigh.
"We won't say, or even think, that, yet. Everything is possible to
youth and health like Janey's. We must keep her happy, and time
will do the rest, I'm sure. Let us begin at once, and have a surprise
for her when she wakes."
As she spoke, Mrs. Minot moved quietly about the room, pinning
the pages of several illustrated papers against the wall at the foot
of the bed, and placing to the best advantage the other comforts
she had brought.
"Keep up your heart, neighbor. I have an idea in my head which I
think will help us all, if I can carry it out," she said, cheerily, as she
went, leaving Mrs. Pecq to sew on Jack's new night-gowns, with
swift fingers, and the grateful wish that she might work for these
good friends forever.
As if the whispering and rustling had disturbed her, Jill soon began
to stir, and slowly opened the eyes which had closed so wearily on
the dull December afternoon. The bare wall with its brown spiders
no longer confronted her, but the colored print of a little girl
dancing to the tune her father was playing on a guitar, while a
stately lady, with satin dress, ruff, and powder, stood looking on,
well pleased. The quaint figure, in its belaced frock, quilted
petticoat, and red-heeled shoes, seemed to come tripping toward
her in such a life-like way, that she almost saw the curls blow
back, heard the rustle of the rich brocade, and caught the sparkle
of the little maid's bright eyes.
"Oh, how pretty! Who sent them?" asked Jill, eagerly, as her eye
glanced along the wall, seeing other new and interesting things
beyond: an elephant-hunt, a ship in full sail, a horse-race, and a
"The good fairy who never comes empty-handed. Look round a bit
and you will see more pretties all for you, my dearie;" and her
mother pointed to a bunch of purple grapes in a green leaf plate, a
knot of bright flowers pinned on the white curtain, and a gay little
double gown across the foot of the bed.
Jill clapped her hands, and was enjoying her new pleasures, when
in came Merry and Molly Loo, with Boo, of course, trotting after
her like a fat and amiable puppy. Then the good times began; the
gown was put on, the fruit tasted, and the pictures were studied
like famous works of art.
"It's a splendid plan to cover up that hateful wall. I'd stick pictures
all round and have a gallery. That reminds me! Up in the garret at
our house is a box full of old fashion-books my aunt left. I often
look at them on rainy days, and they are very funny. I'll go this
minute and get every one. We can pin them up, or make paper
dolls;" and away rushed Molly Loo, with the small brother
waddling behind, for, when he lost sight of her, he was desolate
The girls had fits of laughter over the queer costumes of years
gone by, and put up a splendid procession of ladies in full skirts,
towering hats, pointed slippers, powdered hair, simpering faces,
and impossible waists.
"I do think this bride is perfectly splendid, the long train and veil
are _so_ sweet," said Jill, revelling in fine clothes as she turned from
one plate to another.
"I like the elephants best, and I'd give anything to go on a hunt
like that!" cried Molly Loo, who rode cows, drove any horse she
could get, had nine cats, and was not afraid of the biggest dog that
"I fancy 'The Dancing Lesson;' it is so sort of splendid, with the
great windows, gold chairs, and fine folks. Oh, I would like to live
in a castle with a father and mother like that," said Merry, who was
romantic, and found the old farmhouse on the hill a sad trial to her
high-flown ideas of elegance.
"Now, that ship, setting out for some far-away place, is more to my
mind. I weary for home now and then, and mean to see it again
some day;" and Mrs. Pecq looked longingly at the English ship,
though it was evidently outward bound. Then, as if reproaching
herself for discontent, she added: "It looks like those I used to see
going off to India with a load of missionaries. I came near going
myself once, with a lady bound for Siam; but I went to Canada
with her sister, and here I am."
"I'd like to be a missionary and go where folks throw their babies
to the crocodiles. I'd watch and fish them out, and have a school,
and bring them up, and convert all the people till they knew
better," said warm-hearted Molly Loo, who befriended every
abused animal and forlorn child she met.
"We needn't go to Africa to be missionaries; they have 'em nearer
home and need 'em, too. In all the big cities there are a many, and
they have their hands full with the poor, the wicked, and the
helpless. One can find that sort of work anywhere, if one has a
mind," said Mrs. Pecq.
"I wish we had some to do here. I'd so like to go round with
baskets of tea and rice, and give out tracts and talk to people.
Wouldn't you, girls?" asked Molly, much taken with the new idea.
"It would be rather nice to have a society all to ourselves, and have
meetings and resolutions and things," answered Merry, who was
fond of little ceremonies, and always went to the sewing circle
with her mother.
"We wouldn't let the boys come in. We'd have it a secret society,
as they do their temperance lodge, and we'd have badges and
pass-words and grips. It would be fun if we can only get some
heathen to work at!" cried Jill, ready for fresh enterprises of every
"I can tell you someone to begin on right away," said her mother,
nodding at her. "As wild a little savage as I'd wish to see. Take
her in hand, and make a pretty-mannered lady of her. Begin at
home, my lass, and you'll find missionary work enough for a
"Now, Mammy, you mean me! Well, I will begin; and I'll be so
good, folks won't know me. Being sick makes naughty children
behave in story-books, I'll see if live ones can't;" and Jill put on
such a sanctified face that the girls laughed and asked for their
missions also, thinking they would be the same.
"You, Merry, might do a deal at home helping mother, and setting
the big brothers a good example. One little girl in a house can do
pretty much as she will, especially if she has a mind to make plain
things nice and comfortable, and not long for castles before she
knows how to do her own tasks well," was the first unexpected
Merry colored, but took the reproof sweetly, resolving to do what
she could, and surprised to find how many ways seemed open to
her after a few minutes' thought.
"Where shall I begin? I'm not afraid of a dozen crocodiles after
Miss Bat;" and Molly Loo looked about her with a fierce air,
having had practice in battles with the old lady who kept her
"Well, dear, you haven't far to look for as nice a little heathen as
you'd wish;" and Mrs. Pecq glanced at Boo, who sat on the floor
staring hard at them, attracted by the dread word "crocodile." He
had a cold and no handkerchief, his little hands were red with
chilblains, his clothes shabby, he had untidy darns in the knees of
his stockings, and a head of tight curls that evidently had not been
combed for some time.
"Yes, I know he is, and I try to keep him decent, but I forget, and
he hates to be fixed, and Miss Bat doesn't care, and father laughs
when I talk about it."
Poor Molly Loo looked much ashamed as she made excuses, trying
at the same time to mend matters by seizing Boo and dusting him
all over with her handkerchief, giving a pull at his hair as if ringing
bells, and then dumping him down again with the despairing
exclamation: "Yes, we're a pair of heathens, and there's no one to
save us if I don't."
That was true enough; for Molly's father was a busy man, careless
of everything but his mills, Miss Bat was old and lazy, and felt as
if she might take life easy after serving the motherless children for
many years as well as she knew how. Molly was beginning to see
how much amiss things were at home, and old enough to feel
mortified, though, as yet, she had done nothing to mend the matter
except be kind to the little boy.
"You will, my dear," answered Mrs. Pecq, encouragingly, for she
knew all about it. "Now you've each got a mission, let us see how
well you will get on. Keep it secret, if you like, and report once a
week. I'll be a member, and we'll do great things yet."
"We won't begin till after Christmas; there is so much to do, we
never shall have time for any more. Don't tell, and we'll start fair
at New Year's, if not before," said Jill, taking the lead as usual.
Then they went on with the gay ladies, who certainly were heathen
enough in dress to be in sad need of conversion,--to common-sense
"I feel as if I was at a party," said Jill, after a pause occupied in
surveying her gallery with great satisfaction, for dress was her
delight, and here she had every conceivable style and color.
"Talking of parties, isn't it too bad that we must give up our
Christmas fun? Can't get on without you and Jack, so we are not
going to do a thing, but just have our presents," said Merry, sadly,
as they began to fit different heads and bodies together, to try droll
"I shall be all well in a fortnight, I know; but Jack won't, for it will
take more than a month to mend his poor leg. May be they will
have a dance in the boys' big room, and he can look on," suggested
Jill, with a glance at the dancing damsel on the wall, for she dearly
loved it, and never guessed how long it would be before her light
feet would keep time to music again.
"You'd better give Jack a hint about the party. Send over some
smart ladies, and say they have come to his Christmas ball,"
proposed audacious Molly Loo, always ready for fun.
So they put a preposterous green bonnet, top-heavy with plumes,
on a little lady in yellow, who sat in a carriage; the lady beside her,
in winter costume of velvet pelisse and ermine boa, was fitted to a
bride's head with its orange flowers and veil, and these works of
art were sent over to Jack, labelled "Miss Laura and Lotty Burton
going to the Minots' Christmas ball,"--a piece of naughtiness on
Jill's part, for she knew Jack liked the pretty sisters, whose gentle
manners made her own wild ways seem all the more blamable.
No answer came for a long time, and the girls had almost forgotten
their joke in a game of Letters, when "Tingle, tangle!" went the
bell, and the basket came in heavily laden. A roll of colored papers
was tied outside, and within was a box that rattled, a green and
silver horn, a roll of narrow ribbons, a spool of strong thread, some
large needles, and a note from Mrs. Minot:--
"Dear Jill,--I think of having a Christmas tree so that our invalids
can enjoy it, and all your elegant friends are cordially invited.
Knowing that you would like to help, I send some paper for
sugar-plum horns and some beads for necklaces. They will
brighten the tree and please the girls for themselves or their dolls.
Jack sends you a horn for a pattern, and will you make a
ladder-necklace to show him how? Let me know if you need
"Yours in haste,
"She knew what the child would like, bless her kind heart," said
Mrs. Pecq to herself, and something brighter than the most silvery
bead shone on Jack's shirt-sleeve, as she saw the rapture of Jill
over the new work and the promised pleasure.
Joyful cries greeted the opening of the box, for bunches of
splendid large bugles appeared in all colors, and a lively discussion
went on as to the best contrasts. Jill could not refuse to let her
friends share the pretty work, and soon three necklaces glittered on
three necks, as each admired her own choice.
"I'd be willing to hurt my back dreadfully, if I could lie and do
such lovely things all day," said Merry, as she reluctantly put down
her needle at last, for home duties waited to be done, and looked
more than ever distasteful after this new pleasure.
"So would I! Oh, do you think Mrs. Minot will let you fill the
horns when they are done? I'd love to help you then. Be sure you
send for me!" cried Molly Loo, arching her neck like a proud
pigeon to watch the glitter of her purple and gold necklace on her
"I'm afraid you couldn't be trusted, you love sweeties so, and I'm
sure Boo couldn't. But I'll see about it," replied Jill, with a
The mention of the boy recalled him to their minds, and looking
round they found him peacefully absorbed in polishing up the floor
with Molly's pocket-handkerchief and oil from the little
machine-can. Being torn from this congenial labor, he was carried
off shining with grease and roaring lustily.
But Jill did not mind her loneliness now, and sang like a happy
canary while she threaded her sparkling beads, or hung the gay
horns to dry, ready for their cargoes of sweets. So Mrs. Minot's
recipe for sunshine proved successful, and mother-wit made the
wintry day a bright and happy one for both the little prisoners.
There were a great many clubs in Harmony Village, but as we
intend to interest ourselves with the affairs of the young folks only,
we need not dwell upon the intellectual amusements of the elders.
In summer, the boys devoted themselves to baseball, the girls to
boating, and all got rosy, stout, and strong, in these healthful
exercises. In winter, the lads had their debating club, the lasses a
dramatic ditto. At the former, astonishing bursts of oratory were
heard; at the latter, everything was boldly attempted, from Romeo
and Juliet to Mother Goose's immortal melodies. The two clubs
frequently met and mingled their attractions in a really entertaining
manner, for the speakers made good actors, and the young
actresses were most appreciative listeners to the eloquence of each
Great plans had been afoot for Christmas or New Year, but when
the grand catastrophe put an end to the career of one of the best
"spouters," and caused the retirement of the favorite "singing
chambermaid," the affair was postponed till February, when
Washington's birthday was always celebrated by the patriotic town,
where the father of his country once put on his nightcap, or took
off his boots, as that ubiquitous hero appears to have done in every
part of the United States.
Meantime the boys were studying Revolutionary characters, and
the girls rehearsing such dramatic scenes as they thought most
appropriate and effective for the 22d. In both of these attempts
they were much helped by the sense and spirit of Ralph Evans, a
youth of nineteen, who was a great favorite with the young folks,
not only because he was a good, industrious fellow, who supported
his grandmother, but also full of talent, fun, and ingenuity. It was
no wonder every one who really knew him liked him, for he could
turn his hand to anything, and loved to do it. If the girls were in
despair about a fire-place when acting "The Cricket on the
Hearth," he painted one, and put a gas-log in it that made the kettle
really boil, to their great delight. If the boys found the interest of
their club flagging, Ralph would convulse them by imitations of
the "Member from Cranberry Centre," or fire them with speeches
of famous statesmen. Charity fairs could not get on without him,
and in the store where he worked he did many an ingenious job,
which made him valued for his mechanical skill, as well as for his
energy and integrity.
Mrs. Minot liked to have him with her sons, because they also
were to paddle their own canoes by and by, and she believed that,
rich or poor, boys make better men for learning to use the talents
they possess, not merely as ornaments, but tools with which to
carve their own fortunes; and the best help toward this end is an
example of faithful work, high aims, and honest living. So Ralph
came often, and in times of trouble was a real rainy-day friend.
Jack grew very fond of him during his imprisonment, for the good
youth ran in every evening to get commissions, amuse the boy with
droll accounts of the day's adventures, or invent lifts, bed-tables,
and foot-rests for the impatient invalid. Frank found him a sure
guide through the mechanical mysteries which he loved, and spent
many a useful half-hour discussing cylinders, pistons, valves, and
balance-wheels. Jill also came in for her share of care and comfort;
the poor little back lay all the easier for the air-cushion Ralph got
her, and the weary headaches found relief from the spray atomizer,
which softly distilled its scented dew on the hot forehead till she
Round the beds of Jack and Jill met and mingled the schoolmates
of whom our story treats. Never, probably, did invalids have gayer
times than our two, after a week of solitary confinement; for
school gossip crept in, games could not be prevented, and
Christmas secrets were concocted in those rooms till they were
regular conspirators' dens, when they were not little Bedlams.
After the horn and bead labors were over, the stringing of pop-corn
on red, and cranberries on white, threads, came next, and Jack and
Jill often looked like a new kind of spider in the pretty webs hung
about them, till reeled off to bide their time in the Christmas
closet. Paper flowers followed, and gay garlands and bouquets
blossomed, regardless of the snow and frost without. Then there
was a great scribbling of names, verses, and notes to accompany
the steadily increasing store of odd parcels which were collected at
the Minots', for gifts from every one were to ornament the tree, and
contributions poured in as the day drew near.
But the secret which most excited the young people was the deep
mystery of certain proceedings at the Minot house. No one but
Frank, Ralph, and Mamma knew what it was, and the two boys
nearly drove the others distracted by the tantalizing way in which
they hinted at joys to come, talked strangely about birds, went
measuring round with foot-rules, and shut themselves up in the
Boys' Den, as a certain large room was called. This seemed to be
the centre of operations, but beyond the fact of the promised tree
no ray of light was permitted to pass the jealously guarded doors.
Strange men with paste-pots and ladders went in, furniture was
dragged about, and all sorts of boyish lumber was sent up garret
and down cellar. Mrs. Minot was seen pondering over heaps of
green stuff, hammering was heard, singular bundles were
smuggled upstairs, flowering plants betrayed their presence by
whiffs of fragrance when the door was opened, and Mrs. Pecq was
caught smiling all by herself in a back bedroom, which usually was
shut up in winter.
"They are going to have a play, after all, and that green stuff was
the curtain," said Molly Loo, as the girls talked it over one day,
when they sat with their backs turned to one another, putting last
stitches in certain bits of work which had to be concealed from all
eyes, though it was found convenient to ask one another's taste as
to the color, materials, and sizes of these mysterious articles.
"I think it is going to be a dance. I heard the boys doing their steps
when I went in last evening to find out whether Jack liked blue or
yellow best, so I could put the bow on his pen-wiper," declared
Merry, knitting briskly away at the last of the pair of pretty white
bed-socks she was making for Jill right under her inquisitive little
"They wouldn't have a party of that kind without Jack and me. It is
only an extra nice tree, you see if it isn't," answered Jill from
behind the pillows which made a temporary screen to hide the
toilet mats she was preparing for all her friends.
"Every one of you is wrong, and you'd better rest easy, for you
won't find out the best part of it, try as you may." And Mrs. Pecq
actually chuckled as she, too, worked away at some bits of muslin,
with her back turned to the very unsocial-looking group.
"Well, I don't care, we've got a secret all our own, and won't ever
tell, will we?" cried Jill, falling back on the Home Missionary
Society, though it was not yet begun.
"Never!" answered the girls, and all took great comfort in the idea
that one mystery would not be cleared up, even at Christmas.
Jack gave up guessing, in despair, after he had suggested a new
dining-room where he could eat with the family, a private school
in which his lessons might go on with a tutor, or a theatre for the
production of the farces in which he delighted.
"It is going to be used to keep something in that you are very fond
of," said Mamma, taking pity on him at last.
"Ducks?" asked Jack, with a half pleased, half puzzled air, not
quite seeing where the water was to come from.
Frank exploded at the idea, and added to the mystification by
"There will be one little duck and one great donkey in it." Then,
fearing he had told the secret, he ran off, quacking and braying
"It is to be used for creatures that I, too, am fond of, and you know
neither donkeys nor ducks are favorites of mine," said Mamma,
with a demure expression, as she sat turning over old clothes for
the bundles that always went to poor neighbors, with a little store
of goodies, at this time of the year.
"I know! I know! It is to be a new ward for more sick folks, isn't it,
now?" cried Jack, with what he thought a great proof of
"I don't see how I could attend to many more patients till this one
is off my hands," answered Mamma, with a queer smile, adding
quickly, as if she too was afraid of letting the cat out of the bag:
"That reminds me of a Christmas I once spent among the hospitals
and poor-houses of a great city with a good lady who, for thirty
years, had made it her mission to see that these poor little souls
had one merry day. We gave away two hundred dolls, several great
boxes of candy and toys, besides gay pictures, and new clothes to
orphan children, sick babies, and half-grown innocents. Ah, my
boy, that was a day to remember all my life, to make me doubly
grateful for my blessings, and very glad to serve the helpless and
afflicted, as that dear woman did."
The look and tone with which the last words were uttered
effectually turned Jack's thoughts from the great secret, and started
another small one, for he fell to planning what he would buy with
his pocket-money to surprise the little Pats and Biddies who were
to have no Christmas tree.
"Is it pleasant?" was the question Jill asked before she was fairly
awake on Christmas morning.
"Yes, dear; as bright as heart could wish. Now eat a bit, and then
I'll make you nice for the day's pleasure. I only hope it won't be too
much for you," answered Mrs. Pecq, bustling about, happy, yet
anxious, for Jill was to be carried over to Mrs. Minot's, and it was
her first attempt at going out since the accident.
It seemed as if nine o'clock would never come, and Jill, with
wraps all ready, lay waiting in a fever of impatience for the
doctor's visit, as he wished to superintend the moving. At last he
came, found all promising, and having bundled up his small
patient, carried her, with Frank's help, in her chair-bed to the
ox-sled, which was drawn to the next door, and Miss Jill landed in
the Boys' Den before she had time to get either cold or tired. Mrs.
Minot took her things off with a cordial welcome, but Jill never
said a word, for, after one exclamation, she lay staring about her,
dumb with surprise and delight at what she saw.
The great room was entirely changed; for now it looked like a
garden, or one of the fairy scenes children love, where in-doors
and out-of-doors are pleasantly combined. The ceiling was pale
blue, like the sky; the walls were covered with a paper like a rustic
trellis, up which climbed morning-glories so naturally that the
many-colored bells seemed dancing in the wind. Birds and
butterflies flew among them, and here and there, through arches in
the trellis, one seemed to look into a sunny summer world,
contrasting curiously with the wintry landscape lying beyond the
real windows, festooned with evergreen garlands, and curtained
only by stands of living flowers. A green drugget covered the floor
like grass, rustic chairs from the garden stood about, and in the
middle of the room a handsome hemlock waited for its pretty
burden. A Yule-log blazed on the wide hearth, and over the
chimney-piece, framed in holly, shone the words that set all hearts
to dancing, "Merry Christmas!"
"Do you like it, dear? This is our surprise for you and Jack, and
here we mean to have good times together," said Mrs. Minot, who
had stood quietly enjoying the effect of her work.
"Oh, it is so lovely I don't know what to say!" and Jill put up both
arms, as words failed her, and grateful kisses were all she had to
"Can you suggest anything more to add to the pleasantness?" asked
the gentle lady, holding the small hands in her own, and feeling
well repaid by the child's delight.
"Only Jack;" and Jill's laugh was good to hear, as she glanced up
with merry, yet wistful eyes.
"You are right. We'll have him in at once, or he will come hopping
on one leg;" and away hurried his mother, laughing, too, for
whistles, shouts, thumps, and violent demonstrations of all kinds
had been heard from the room where Jack was raging with
impatience, while he waited for his share of the surprise.
Jill could hardly lie still when she heard the roll of another
chair-bed coming down the hall, its passage enlivened with cries of
"Starboard! Port! Easy now! Pull away!" from Ralph and Frank, as
they steered the recumbent Columbus on his first voyage of
"Well, I call that handsome!" was Jack's exclamation, when the
full beauty of the scene burst upon his view. Then he forgot all
about it and gave a whoop of pleasure, for there beside the fire was
an eager face, two hands beckoning, and Jill's voice crying,
"I'm here! I'm here! Oh, do come, quick!" Down the long room
rattled the chair, Jack cheering all the way, and brought up beside
the other one, as the long-parted friends exclaimed, with one
"Isn't this jolly!"
It certainly did look so, for Ralph and Frank danced a wild sort of
fandango round the tree, Dr. Whiting stood and laughed, while the
two mothers beamed from the door-way, and the children, not
knowing whether to laugh or to cry, compromised the matter by
clapping their hands and shouting, "Merry Christmas to everybody!"
like a pair of little maniacs.
Then they all sobered down, and the busy ones went off to the
various duties of the day, leaving the young invalids to repose and
enjoy themselves together.
"How nice you look," said Jill, when they had duly admired the
"So do you," gallantly returned Jack, as he surveyed her with
They did look very nice, though happiness was the principal
beautifier. Jill wore a red wrapper, with the most brilliant of all the
necklaces sparkling at her throat, over a nicely crimped frill her
mother had made in honor of the day. All the curly black hair was
gathered into a red net, and a pair of smart little moccasins
covered the feet that had not stepped for many a weary day. Jack
was not so gay, but had made himself as fine as circumstances
would permit. A gray dressing-gown, with blue cuffs and collar,
was very becoming to the blonde youth; an immaculate shirt, best
studs, sleeve-buttons, blue tie, and handkerchief wet with cologne
sticking out of the breast-pocket, gave an air of elegance in spite of
the afghan spread over the lower portions of his manly form. The
yellow hair was brushed till it shone, and being parted in the
middle, to hide the black patch, made two engaging little "quirls"
on his forehead. The summer tan had faded from his cheeks, but
his eyes were as blue as the wintry sky, and nearly every white
tooth was visible as he smiled on his partner in misfortune, saying
"I'm ever so glad to see you again; guess we are over the worst of
it now, and can have good times. Won't it be fun to stay here all
the while, and amuse one another?"
"Yes, indeed; but one day is so short! It will be stupider than ever
when I go home to-night," answered Jill, looking about her with
"But you are not going home to-night; you are to stay ever so long.
Didn't Mamma tell you?"
"No. Oh, how splendid! Am I really? Where will I sleep? What
will Mammy do without me?" and Jill almost sat up, she was so
delighted with the new surprise.
"That room in there is all fixed for you. I made Frank tell me so
much. Mamma said I might tell you, but I didn't think she would
be able to hold in if she saw you first. Your mother is coming, too,
and we are all going to have larks together till we are well."
The splendor of this arrangement took Jill's breath away, and
before she got it again, in came Frank and Ralph with two
clothes-baskets of treasures to be hung upon the tree. While they
wired on the candles the children asked questions, and found out
all they wanted to know about the new plans and pleasures.
'Who fixed all this?"
"Mamma thought of it, and Ralph and I did it. He's the man for
this sort of thing, you know. He proposed cutting out the arches and
sticking on birds and butterflies just where they looked best. I put
those canaries over there, they looked so well against the blue;"
and Frank proudly pointed out some queer orange-colored fowls,
looking as if they were having fits in the air, but very effective,
"Your mother said you might call this the Bird Room. We caught a
scarlet-tanager for you to begin with, didn't we, Jack?" and Ralph
threw a _bon-bon_ at Jill, who looked very like a bright little bird in
a warm nest.
"Good for you! Yes, and we are going to keep her in this pretty
cage till we can both fly off together. I say, Jill, where shall we be
in our classes when we do get back?" and Jack's merry face fell at
"At the foot, if we don't study and keep up. Doctor said I might
study sometimes, if I'd lie still as long as he thought best, and
Molly brought home my books, and Merry says she will come in
every day and tell me where the lessons are. I don't mean to fall
behind, if my backbone is cracked," said Jill, with a decided nod
that made several black rings fly out of the net to dance on her
"Frank said he'd pull me along in my Latin, but I've been lazy and
haven't done a thing. Let's go at it and start fair for New Year,"
proposed Jack, who did not love study as the bright girl did, but
was ashamed to fall behind her in anything.
"All right. They've been reviewing, so we can keep up when they
begin, if we work next week, while the rest have a holiday. Oh,
dear, I do miss school dreadfully;" and Jill sighed for the old desk,
every blot and notch of which was dear to her.
"There come our things, and pretty nice they look, too," said Jack;
and his mother began to dress the tree, hanging up the gay horns,
the gilded nuts, red and yellow apples and oranges, and festooning
long strings of pop-corn and scarlet cranberries from bough to
bough, with the glittering necklaces hung where the light would
show their colors best.
"I never saw such a splendid tree before. I'm glad we could help,
though we were ill. Is it all done now?" asked Jill, when the last
parcel was tied on and everybody stood back to admire the pretty
"One thing more. Hand me that box, Frank, and be very careful
that you fasten this up firmly, Ralph," answered Mrs. Minot, as she
took from its wrappings the waxen figure of a little child. The rosy
limbs were very life-like, so was the smiling face under the locks
of shining hair. Both plump arms were outspread as if to scatter
blessings over all, and downy wings seemed to flutter from the
dimpled shoulders, making an angel of the baby.
"Is it St. Nicholas?" asked Jill, who had never seen that famous
personage, and knew but little of Christmas festivities.
"It is the Christ-child, whose birthday we are celebrating. I got the
best I could find, for I like the idea better than old Santa Claus;
though we _may_ have him, too," said Mamma, holding the little
image so that both could see it well.
"It looks like a real baby;" and Jack touched the rosy foot with the
tip of his finger, as if expecting a crow from the half-open lips.
"It reminds me of the saints in the chapel of the Sacred Heart in
Montreal. One little St. John looked like this, only he had a lamb
instead of wings," said Jill, stroking the flaxen hair, and wishing
she dared ask for it to play with.
"He is the children's saint to pray to, love, and imitate, for he never
forgot them, but blessed and healed and taught them all his life.
This is only a poor image of the holiest baby ever born, but I hope
it will keep his memory in your minds all day, because this is the
day for good resolutions, happy thoughts, and humble prayers, as
well as play and gifts and feasting."
While she spoke, Mrs. Minot, touching the little figure as tenderly
as if it were alive, had tied a broad white ribbon round it, and,
handing it to Ralph, bade him fasten it to the hook above the
tree-top, where it seemed to float as if the downy wings supported
Jack and Jill lay silently watching, with a sweet sort of soberness
in their young faces, and for a moment the room was very still as
all eyes looked up at the Blessed Child. The sunshine seemed to
grow more golden as it flickered on the little head, the flames
glanced about the glittering tree as if trying to climb and kiss the
baby feet, and, without, a chime of bells rang sweetly, calling
people to hear again the lovely story of the life begun on
Only a minute, but it did them good, and presently, when the
pleasant work was over, and the workers gone, the boys to church,
and Mamma to see about lunch for the invalids, Jack said, gravely,
"I think we ought to be extra good, every one is so kind to us, and
we are getting well, and going to have such capital times. Don't see
how we can do anything else to show we are grateful."
"It isn't easy to be good when one is sick," said Jill, thoughtfully. "I
fret dreadfully, I get so tired of being still. I want to scream
sometimes, but I don't, because it would scare Mammy, so I cry.
Do you cry, Jack?"
"Men never do. I want to tramp round when things bother me; but I
can't, so I kick and say, 'Hang it!' and when I get very bad I pitch
into Frank, and he lets me. I tell you, Jill, he's a good brother!" and
Jack privately resolved then and there to invite Frank to take it out
of him in any form he pleased as soon as health would permit.
"I rather think we _shall_ grow good in this pretty place, for I don't
see how we can be bad if we want to, it is all so nice and sort of
pious here," said Jill, with her eyes on the angel over the tree.
"A fellow can be awfully hungry, I know that. I didn't half eat
breakfast, I was in such a hurry to see you, and know all about the
secrets. Frank kept saying I couldn't guess, that you had come,
and I never would be ready, till finally I got mad and fired an egg
at him, and made no end of a mess."
Jack and Jill went off into a gale of laughter at the idea of
dignified Frank dodging the egg that smashed on the wall, leaving
an indelible mark of Jack's besetting sin, impatience.
Just then Mrs. Minot came in, well pleased to hear such pleasant
sounds, and to see two merry faces, where usually one listless one
met her anxious eyes.
"The new medicine works well, neighbor," she said to Mrs. Pecq,
who followed with the lunch tray.
"Indeed it does, mem. I feel as if I'd taken a sup myself, I'm that
easy in my mind."
And she looked so, too, for she seemed to have left all her cares in
the little house when she locked the door behind her, and now
stood smiling with a clean apron on, so fresh and cheerful, that Jill
hardly knew her own mother.
"Things taste better when you have someone to eat with you,"
observed Jack, as they devoured sandwiches, and drank milk out
of little mugs with rosebuds on them.
"Don't eat too much, or you won't be ready for the next surprise,"
said his mother, when the plates were empty, and the last drop
gone down throats dry with much chatter.
"More surprises! Oh, what fun!" cried Jill. And all the rest of the
morning, in the intervals of talk and play, they tried to guess what
it could be.
At two o'clock they found out, for dinner was served in the Bird
Room, and the children revelled in the simple feast prepared for
them. The two mothers kept the little bed-tables well supplied, and
fed their nurslings like maternal birds, while Frank presided over
the feast with great dignity, and ate a dinner which would have
astonished Mamma, if she had not been too busy to observe how
fast the mince pie vanished.
"The girls said Christmas was spoiled because of us; but I don't
think so, and they won't either, when they see this splendid place
and know all about our nice plans," said Jill, luxuriously eating the
nut-meats Jack picked out for her, as they lay in Eastern style at
the festive board.
"I call this broken bones made easy. I never had a better Christmas.
Have a raisin? Here's a good fat one." And Jack made a long arm
to Jill's mouth, which began to sing "Little Jack Horner" as an
"It would have been a lonesome one to all of us, I'm thinking, but
for your mother, boys. My duty and hearty thanks to you, mem,"
put in grateful Mrs. Pecq, bowing over her coffee-cup as she had
seen ladies bow over their wine-glasses at dinner parties in Old
"I rise to propose a health, Our Mothers." And Frank stood up with
a goblet of water, for not even at Christmas time was wine seen on
"Hip, hip, hurrah!" called Jack, baptizing himself with a good
sprinkle, as he waved his glass and drank the toast with a look that
made his mother's eyes fill with happy tears.
Jill threw her mother a kiss, feeling very grown up and elegant to
be dining out in such style. Then they drank every one's health
with much merriment, till Frank declared that Jack would float off
on the deluge of water he splashed about in his enthusiasm, and
Mamma proposed a rest after the merry-making.
"Now the best fun is coming, and we have not long to wait," said
the boy, when naps and rides about the room had whiled away the
brief interval between dinner and dusk, for the evening
entertainment was to be an early one, to suit the invalids' bedtime.
"I hope the girls will like their things. I helped to choose them, and
each has a nice present. I don't know mine, though, and I'm in a
twitter to see it," said Jill, as they lay waiting for the fun to begin.
"I do; I chose it, so I know you will like one of them, any way."