Part 5 out of 6
posts, Gus said,--
"Uncle Fred says he will give us a hay-cart ride to-night, as it is
moony, and after it you are all to come to our house and have
"Can't do it," answered Frank, sadly.
"Lodge," groaned Jack, for both considered a drive in the cart,
where they all sat in a merry bunch among the hay, one of the joys
of life, and much regretted that a prior engagement would prevent
their sharing in it.
"That's a pity! I forgot it was Tuesday, and can't put it off, as I've
asked all the rest. Give up your old Lodge and come along," said
Gus, who had not joined yet.
"We might for once, perhaps, but I don't like to"--began Jack,
"_I_ won't. Who's to propose Bob if we don't? I want to go awfully;
but I wouldn't disappoint Bob for a good deal, now he is willing to
come." And Frank sprang off his post as if anxious to flee
temptation, for it _was_ very pleasant to go singing, up hill and down
dale, in the spring moonlight, with--well, the fellows of his set.
"Nor Ed, I forgot that. No, we can't go. We want to be Good
Templars, and we mustn't shirk," added Jack, following his
"Better come. Can't put it off. Lots of fun," called Gus,
disappointed at losing two of his favorite mates.
But the boys did not turn back, and as they went steadily away they
felt that they _were_ doing their little part in the good work, and
making their small sacrifices, like faithful members.
They got their reward, however, for at home they found Mr.
Chauncey, a good and great man, from England, who had known
their grandfather, and was an honored friend of the family. The
boys loved to hear him talk, and all tea-time listened with interest
to the conversation, for Mr. Chauncey was a reformer as well as a
famous clergyman, and it was like inspiring music to hear him tell
about the world's work, and the brave men and women who were
carrying it on. Eager to show that they had, at least, begun, the
boys told him about their Lodge, and were immensely pleased
when their guest took from his pocket-book a worn paper, proving
that he too was a Good Templar, and belonged to the same army as
they did. Nor was that all, for when they reluctantly excused
themselves, Mr. Chauncey gave each a hearty "grip," and said,
holding their hands in his, as he smiled at the young faces looking
up at him with so much love and honor in them,--
"Tell the brothers and sisters that if I can serve them in any way
while here, to command me. I will give them a lecture at their
Lodge or in public, whichever they like; and I wish you God-speed,
Two prouder lads never walked the streets than Frank and Jack as
they hurried away, nearly forgetting the poor little paper in their
haste to tell the good news; for it was seldom that such an offer
was made the Lodge, and they felt the honor done them as bearers
As the secrets of the association cannot be divulged to the
uninitiated, we can only say that there was great rejoicing over the
new member, for Bob was unanimously welcomed, and much gratitude
both felt and expressed for Mr. Chauncey's interest in this
small division of the grand army; for these good folk met with
little sympathy from the great people of the town, and it was very
cheering to have a well-known and much-beloved man say a word
for them. All agreed that the lecture should be public, that others
might share the pleasure with them, and perhaps be converted by a
higher eloquence than any they possessed.
So the services that night were unusually full of spirit and good
cheer; for all felt the influence of a friendly word, the beauty of a
fine example. The paper was much applauded, the songs were very
hearty, and when Frank, whose turn it was to be chaplain, read the
closing prayer, every one felt that they had much to give thanks for,
since one more had joined them, and the work was slowly getting
on with unexpected helpers sent to lend a hand. The lights shone
out from the little hall across the street, the music reached the ears
of passers-by, and the busy hum of voices up there told how
faithfully some, at least, of the villagers tried to make the town a
safer place for their boys to grow up in, though the tavern still had
its private bar and the saloon-door stood open to invite them in.
There are many such quiet lodges, and in them many young people
learning as these lads were learning something of the duty they
owed their neighbors as well as themselves, and being fitted to
become good men and sober citizens by practising and preaching
the law and gospel of temperance.
The next night Mr. Chauncey lectured, and the town turned out to
hear the distinguished man, who not only told them of the crime
and misery produced by this terrible vice which afflicted both
England and America, but of the great crusade against it going on
everywhere, and the need of courage, patience, hard work, and
much faith, that in time it might be overcome. Strong and cheerful
words that all liked to hear and many heartily believed, especially
the young Templars, whose boyish fancies were won by the idea of
fighting as knights of old did in the famous crusades they read
about in their splendid new young folks' edition of Froissart.
"We can't pitch into people as the Red Cross fellows did, but we
can smash rum-jugs when we get the chance, and stand by our flag
as our men did in the war," said Frank, with sparkling eyes, as they
went home in the moonlight arm in arm, keeping step behind Mr.
Chauncey, who led the way with their mother on his arm, a martial
figure though a minister, and a good captain to follow, as the boys
felt after hearing his stirring words.
"Let's try and get up a company of boys like those mother told us
about, and show people that we mean what we say. I'll be
color-bearer, and you may drill us as much as you like. A real Cold
Water Army, with flags flying, and drums, and all sorts of larks,"
said Jack, much excited, and taking a dramatic view of the matter.
"We'll see about it. Something ought to be done, and perhaps we
shall be the men to do it when the time comes," answered Frank,
feeling ready to shoulder a musket or be a minute-man in good
Boyish talk and enthusiasm, but it was of the right sort; and when
time and training had fitted them to bear arms, these young knights
would be worthy to put on the red cross and ride away to help right
the wrongs and slay the dragons that afflict the world.
A Sweet Memory
Now the lovely June days had come, everything began to look
really summer-like; school would soon be over, and the young
people were joyfully preparing for the long vacation.
"We are all going up to Bethlehem. We take the seashore one year
and the mountains the next. Better come along," said Gus, as the
boys lay on the grass after beating the Lincolns at one of the first
matches of the season.
"Can't; we are off to Pebbly Beach the second week in July. Our
invalids need sea air. That one looks delicate, doesn't he?" asked
Frank, giving Jack a slight rap with his bat as that young
gentleman lay in his usual attitude admiring the blue hose and
russet shoes which adorned his sturdy limbs.
"Stop that, Captain! You needn't talk about invalids, when you
know mother says you are not to look at a book for a month
because you have studied yourself thin and headachy. I'm all
right;" and Jack gave himself a sounding slap on the chest, where
shone the white star of the H.B.B.C.
"Hear the little cockerel crow! you just wait till you get into the
college class, and see if you don't have to study like fun," said Gus,
with unruffled composure, for he was going to Harvard next year,
and felt himself already a Senior.
"Never shall; I don't want any of your old colleges. I'm going into
business as soon as I can. Ed says I may be his book-keeper, if I
am ready when he starts for himself. That is much jollier than
grinding away for four years, and then having to grind ever so
many more at a profession," said Jack, examining with interest the
various knocks and bruises with which much ball-playing had
adorned his hands.
"Much you know about it. Just as well you don't mean to try, for it
would take a mighty long pull and strong pull to get you in.
Business would suit you better, and you and Ed would make a
capital partnership. Devlin, Minot, & Co. sounds well, hey, Gus?"
"Very, but they are such good-natured chaps, they'd never get rich.
By the way, Ed came home at noon to-day sick. I met him, and he
looked regularly knocked up," answered Gus, in a sober tone.
"I told him he'd better not go down Monday, for he wasn't well
Saturday, and couldn't come to sing Sunday evening, you
remember. I must go right round and see what the matter is;" and
Jack jumped up, with an anxious face.
"Let him alone till to-morrow. He won't want any one fussing over
him now. We are going for a pull; come along and steer," said
Frank, for the sunset promised to be fine, and the boys liked a
brisk row in their newly painted boat, the "Rhodora."
"Go ahead and get ready, I'll just cut round and ask at the door. It
will seem kind, and I must know how Ed is. Won't be long;" and
Jack was off at his best pace.
The others were waiting impatiently when he came back with
slower steps and a more anxious face.
"How is the old fellow?" called Frank from the boat, while Gus
stood leaning on an oar in a nautical attitude.
"Pretty sick. Had the doctor. May have a fever. I didn't go in, but
Ed sent his love, and wanted to know who beat," answered Jack,
stepping to his place, glad to rest and cool himself.
"Guess he'll be all right in a day or two;" and Gus pushed off,
leaving all care behind.
"Hope he won't have typhoid--that's no joke, I tell you," said Frank,
who knew all about it, and did not care to repeat the experience.
"He's worked too hard. He's so faithful he does more than his
share, and gets tired out. Mother asked him to come down and see
us when he has his vacation; we are going to have high old times
fishing and boating. Up or down?" asked Jack, as they glided out
into the river.
Gus looked both ways, and seeing another boat with a glimpse of
red in it just going round the bend, answered, with decision, "Up,
of course. Don't we always pull to the bridge?"
"Not when the girls are going down," laughed Jack, who had
recognized Juliet's scarlet boating-suit as he glanced over his
"Mind what you are about, and don't gabble," commanded Captain
Frank, as the crew bent to their oars and the slender boat cut
through the water leaving a long furrow trembling behind.
"Oh, ah! I see! There is a blue jacket as well as a red one, so it's all
"Lady Queen Anne, she sits in the sun,
As white as a lily, as brown as a bun,"
sung Jack, recovering his spirits, and wishing Jill was there too.
"Do you want a ducking?" sternly demanded Gus, anxious to
"Shouldn't mind, its so warm."
But Jack said no more, and soon the "Rhodora" was alongside the
"Water Witch," exchanging greetings in the most amiable manner.
"Pity this boat won't hold four. We'd put Jack in yours, and take
you girls a nice spin up to the Hemlocks," said Frank, whose idea
of bliss was floating down the river with Annette as coxswain.
"You'd better come in here, this will hold four, and we are tired of
rowing," returned the "Water Witch," so invitingly that Gus could
"I don't think it is safe to put four in there. You'd better change
places with Annette, Gus, and then we shall be ship-shape," said
Frank, answering a telegram from the eyes that matched the blue
"Wouldn't it be _more_ ship-shape still if you put me ashore at Grif's
landing? I can take his boat, or wait till you come back. Don't care
what I do," said Jack, feeling himself sadly in the way.
The good-natured offer being accepted with thanks, the changes
were made, and, leaving him behind, the two boats went gayly up
the river. He really did not care what he did, so sat in Grif's boat
awhile watching the red sky, the shining stream, and the low green
meadows, where the blackbirds were singing as if they too had met
their little sweethearts and were happy.
Jack remembered that quiet half-hour long afterward, because
what followed seemed to impress it on his memory. As he sat
enjoying the scene, he very naturally thought about Ed; for the face
of the sister whom he saw was very anxious, and the word "fever"
recalled the hard times when Frank was ill, particularly the night it
was thought the boy would not live till dawn, and Jack cried
himself to sleep, wondering how he ever could get on without his
brother. Ed was almost as dear to him, and the thought that he was
suffering destroyed Jack's pleasure for a little while. But,
fortunately, young people do not know how to be anxious very
long, so our boy soon cheered up, thinking about the late match
between the Stars and the Lincolns, and after a good rest went
whistling home, with a handful of mint for Mrs. Pecq, and played
games with Jill as merrily as if there was no such thing as care in
Next day Ed was worse, and for a week the answer was the same,
when Jack crept to the back door with his eager question.
Others came also, for the dear boy lying upstairs had friends
everywhere, and older neighbors thought of him even more
anxiously and tenderly than his mates. It was not fever, but some
swifter trouble, for when Saturday night came, Ed had gone home
to a longer and more peaceful Sabbath than any he had ever known
in this world.
Jack had been there in the afternoon, and a kind message had
come down to him that his friend was not suffering so much, and
he had gone away, hoping, in his boyish ignorance, that all danger
was over. An hour later he was reading in the parlor, having no
heart for play, when Frank came in with a look upon his face
which would have prepared Jack for the news if he had seen it. But
he did not look up, and Frank found it so hard to speak, that he
lingered a moment at the piano, as he often did when he came
home. It stood open, and on the rack was the "Jolly Brothers'
Galop," which he had been learning to play with Ed. Big boy as he
was, the sudden thought that never again would they sit shoulder to
shoulder, thundering the marches or singing the songs both liked
so well, made his eyes fill as he laid away the music, and shut the
instrument, feeling as if he never wanted to touch it again. Then he
went and sat down beside Jack with an arm round his neck, trying
to steady his voice by a natural question before he told the heavy
"What are you reading, Jacky?"
The unusual caress, the very gentle tone, made Jack look up, and
the minute he saw Frank's face he knew the truth.
"Is Ed----?" he could not say the hard word, and Frank could only
answer by a nod as he winked fast, for the tears would come. Jack
said no more, but as the book dropped from his knee he hid his
face in the sofa-pillow and lay quite still, not crying, but trying to
make it seem true that his dear Ed had gone away for ever. He
could not do it, and presently turned his head a little to say, in a
"I don't see what I _shall_ do without him!"
"I know it's hard for you. It is for all of us."
"You've got Gus, but now I haven't anybody. Ed was always so
good to me!" and with the name so many tender recollections
came, that poor Jack broke down in spite of his manful attempts to
smother the sobs in the red pillow.
There was an unconscious reproach in the words, Frank thought;
for he was not as gentle as Ed, and he did not wonder that Jack
loved and mourned for the lost friend like a brother.
"You've got me. I'll be good to you; cry if you want to, I don't
There was such a sympathetic choke in Frank's voice that Jack felt
comforted at once, and when he had had his cry out, which was
very soon, he let Frank pull him up with a bear-like but
affectionate hug, and sat leaning on him as they talked about their
loss, both feeling that there might have been a greater one, and
resolving to love one another very much hereafter.
Mrs. Minot often called Frank the "father-boy," because he was
now the head of the house, and a sober, reliable fellow for his
years. Usually he did not show much affection except to her, for,
as he once said, "I shall never be too old to kiss my mother," and
she often wished that he had a little sister, to bring out the softer
side of his character. He domineered over Jack and laughed at his
affectionate little ways, but now when trouble came, he was as
kind and patient as a girl; and when Mamma came in, having
heard the news, she found her "father-boy" comforting his brother
so well that she slipped away without a word, leaving them to
learn one of the sweet lessons sorrow teaches--to lean on one
another, and let each trial bring them closer together.
It is often said that there should be no death or grief in children's
stories. It is not wise to dwell on the dark and sad side of these
things; but they have also a bright and lovely side, and since even
the youngest, dearest, and most guarded child cannot escape some
knowledge of the great mystery, is it not well to teach them in
simple, cheerful ways that affection sweetens sorrow, and a lovely
life can make death beautiful? I think so, therefore try to tell the
last scene in the history of a boy who really lived and really left
behind him a memory so precious that it will not be soon forgotten
by those who knew and loved him. For the influence of this short
life was felt by many, and even this brief record of it may do for
other children what the reality did for those who still lay flowers
on his grave, and try to be "as good as Eddy."
Few would have thought that the death of a quiet lad of seventeen
would have been so widely felt, so sincerely mourned; but virtue,
like sunshine, works its own sweet miracles, and when it was
known that never again would the bright face be seen in the village
streets, the cheery voice heard, the loving heart felt in any of the
little acts which so endeared Ed Devlin to those about him, it
seemed as if young and old grieved alike for so much promise cut
off in its spring-time. This was proved at the funeral, for, though it
took place at the busy hour of a busy day, men left their affairs,
women their households, young people their studies and their play,
and gave an hour to show their affection, respect, and sympathy for
those who had lost so much.
The girls had trimmed the church with all the sweetest flowers
they could find, and garlands of lilies of the valley robbed the
casket of its mournful look. The boys had brought fresh boughs to
make the grave a green bed for their comrade's last sleep. Now
they were all gathered together, and it was a touching sight to see
the rows of young faces sobered and saddened by their first look at
sorrow. The girls sobbed, and the boys set their lips tightly as their
glances fell upon the lilies under which the familiar face lay full of
solemn peace. Tears dimmed older eyes when the hymn the dead
boy loved was sung, and the pastor told with how much pride and
pleasure he had watched the gracious growth of this young
parishioner since he first met the lad of twelve and was attracted
by the shining face, the pleasant manners. Dutiful and loving;
ready to help; patient to bear and forbear; eager to excel; faithful
to the smallest task, yet full of high ambitions; and, better still,
possessing the childlike piety that can trust and believe, wait and
hope. Good and happy--the two things we all long for and so few
of us truly are. This he was, and this single fact was the best
eulogy his pastor could pronounce over the beloved youth gone to
a nobler manhood whose promise left so sweet a memory behind.
As the young people looked, listened, and took in the scene, they
felt as if some mysterious power had changed their playmate from
a creature like themselves into a sort of saint or hero for them to
look up to, and imitate if they could. "What has he done, to be so
loved, praised, and mourned?" they thought, with a tender sort of
wonder; and the answer seemed to come to them as never before,
for never had they been brought so near the solemn truth of life
and death. "It was not what he did but what he was that made him
so beloved. All that was sweet and noble in him still lives; for
goodness is the only thing we can take with us when we die, the
only thing that can comfort those we leave behind, and help us to
meet again hereafter."
This feeling was in many hearts when they went away to lay him,
with prayer and music, under the budding oak that leaned over his
grave, a fit emblem of the young life just beginning its new spring.
As the children did their part, the beauty of the summer day
soothed their sorrow, and something of the soft brightness of the
June sunshine seemed to gild their thoughts, as it gilded the
flower-strewn mound they left behind. The true and touching
words spoken cheered as well as impressed them, and made them
feel that their friend was not lost but gone on into a higher class of
the great school whose Master is eternal love and wisdom. So the
tears soon dried, and the young faces looked up like flowers after
rain. But the heaven-sent shower sank into the earth, and they were
the stronger, sweeter for it, more eager to make life brave and
beautiful, because death had gently shown them what it should be.
When the boys came home they found their mother already
returned, and Jill upon the parlor sofa listening to her account of
the funeral with the same quiet, hopeful look which their own
faces wore; for somehow the sadness seemed to have gone, and a
sort of Sunday peace remained.
"I'm glad it was all so sweet and pleasant. Come and rest, you look
so tired;" and Jill held out her hands to greet them--a crumpled
handkerchief in one and a little bunch of fading lilies in the other.
Jack sat down in the low chair beside her and leaned his head
against the arm of the sofa, for he was tired. But Frank walked
slowly up and down the long rooms with a serious yet serene look
on his face, for he felt as if he had learned something that day, and
would always be the better for it. Presently he said, stopping
before his mother, who leaned in the easy-chair looking up at the
picture of her boys' father,--
"I should like to have just such things said about me when
"So should I, if I deserved them as Ed did!" cried Jack, earnestly.
"You may if you try. I should be proud to hear them, and if they
were true, they would comfort me more than anything else. I am
glad you see the lovely side of sorrow, and are learning the lesson
such losses teach us," answered their mother, who believed in
teaching young people to face trouble bravely, and find the silver
lining in the clouds that come to all of us.
"I never thought much about it before, but now dying doesn't seem
dreadful at all--only solemn and beautiful. Somehow everybody
seems to love everybody else more for it, and try to be kind and
good and pious. I can't say what I mean, but you know, mother;"
and Frank went pacing on again with the bright look his eyes
always wore when he listened to music or read of some noble
"That's what Merry said when she and Molly came in on their way
home. But Molly felt dreadfully, and so did Mabel. She brought
me these flowers to press, for we are all going to keep some to
remember dear Ed by," said Jill, carefully smoothing out the little
bells as she laid the lilies in her hymn-book, for she too had had a
thoughtful hour while she lay alone, imagining all that went on in
the church, and shedding a few tender tears over the friend who
was always so kind to her.
"I don't want anything to remember him by. I was so fond of him, I
couldn't forget if I tried. I know I ought not to say it, but I _don't_
see why God let him die," said Jack, with a quiver in his voice, for
his loving heart could not help aching still.
"No, dear, we cannot see or know many things that grieve us very
much, but we _can_ trust that it is right, and try to believe that all is
meant for our good. That is what faith means, and without it we
are miserable. When you were little, you were afraid of the dark,
but if I spoke or touched you, then you were sure all was well, and
fell asleep holding my hand. God is wiser and stronger than any
father or mother, so hold fast to Him, and you will have no doubt
or fear, however dark it seems."
"As you do," said Jack, going to sit on the arm of Mamma's chair,
with his cheek to hers, willing to trust as she bade him, but glad to
hold fast the living hand that had led and comforted him all his
"Ed used to say to me when I fretted about getting well, and
thought nobody cared for me, which was very naughty, 'Don't be
troubled, God won't forget you; and if you must be lame, He will
make you able to bear it,'" said Jill, softly, her quick little mind all
alive with new thoughts and feelings.
"He believed it, and that's why he liked that hymn so much. I'm
glad they sung it to-day," said Frank, bringing his heavy dictionary
to lay on the book where the flowers were pressing.
"Oh, thank you! Could you play that tune for me? I didn't hear it,
and I'd love to, if you are willing," asked Jill.
"I didn't think I ever should want to play again, but I do. Will you
sing it for her, mother? I'm afraid I shall break down if I try alone."
"We will all sing, music is good for us now," said Mamma; and in
rather broken voices they did sing Ed's favorite words:--
"Not a sparrow falleth but its God doth know,
Just as when his mandate lays a monarch low;
Not a leaflet moveth, but its God doth see,
Think not, then, O mortal, God forgetteth thee.
Far more precious surely than the birds that fly
Is a Father's image to a Father's eye.
E'en thy hairs are numbered; trust Him full and free,
Cast thy cares before Him, He will comfort thee;
For the God that planted in thy breast a soul,
On his sacred tables doth thy name enroll.
Cheer thine heart, then, mortal, never faithless be,
He that marks the sparrows will remember thee."
"Now, Mr. Jack, it is a moral impossibility to get all those things
into one trunk, and you mustn't ask it of me," said Mrs. Pecq, in a
tone of despair, as she surveyed the heap of treasures she was
expected to pack for the boys.
"Never mind the clothes, we only want a boating-suit apiece.
Mamma can put a few collars in her trunk for us; but these
necessary things _must_ go," answered Jack, adding his target and
air-pistol to the pile of bats, fishing-tackle, games, and a choice
collection of shabby balls.
"Those are the necessaries and clothes the luxuries, are they? Why
don't you add a velocipede, wheelbarrow, and printing-press, my
dear?" asked Mrs. Pecq, while Jill turned up her nose at "boys'
"Wish I could. Dare say we shall want them. Women don't know
what fellows need, and always must put in a lot of stiff shirts and
clean handkerchiefs and clothes-brushes and pots of cold cream.
We are going to rough it, and don't want any fuss and feathers,"
said Jack, beginning to pack the precious balls in his rubber boots,
and strap them up with the umbrellas, rods, and bats, seeing that
there was no hope of a place in the trunk.
Here Frank came in with two big books, saying calmly, "Just slip
these in somewhere, we shall need them."
"But you are not to study at all, so you won't want those great
dictionaries," cried Jill, busily packing her new travelling-basket
with all sorts of little rolls, bags, and boxes.
"They are not dics, but my Encyclopedia. We shall want to know
heaps of things, and this tells about everything. With those books,
and a microscope and a telescope, you could travel round the
world, and learn all you wanted to. Can't possibly get on without
them," said Frank, fondly patting his favorite work.
"My patience! What queer cattle boys are!" exclaimed Mrs. Pecq,
while they all laughed. "It can't be done, Mr. Frank; all the boxes
are brim full, and you'll have to leave those fat books behind, for
there's no place anywhere."
"Then I'll carry them myself;" and Frank tucked one under each
arm, with a determined air, which settled the matter.
"I suppose you'll study cockleology instead of boating, and read up
on polywogs while we play tennis, or go poking round with your
old spy-glass instead of having a jolly good time," said Jack,
hauling away on the strap till all was taut and ship-shape with the
"Tadpoles don't live in salt water, my son, and if you mean
conchology, you'd better say so. I shall play as much as I wish, and
when I want to know about any new or curious thing, I shall
consult my Cyclo, instead of bothering other people with
questions, or giving it up like a dunce;" with which crushing reply
Frank departed, leaving Jill to pack and unpack her treasures a
dozen times, and Jack to dance jigs on the lids of the trunks till
they would shut.
A very happy party set off the next day, leaving Mrs. Pecq waving
her apron on the steps. Mrs. Minot carried the lunch, Jack his
precious bundle with trifles dropping out by the way, and Jill felt
very elegant bearing her new basket with red worsted cherries
bobbing on the outside. Frank actually did take the Encyclopedia,
done up in the roll of shawls, and whenever the others wondered
about anything--tides, lighthouses, towns, or natural productions--
he brought forth one of the books and triumphantly read therefrom,
to the great merriment, if not edification, of his party.
A very short trip by rail and the rest of the journey by boat, to Jill's
great contentment, for she hated to be shut up; and while the lads
roved here and there she sat under the awning, too happy to talk.
But Mrs. Minot watched with real satisfaction how the fresh wind
blew the color back into the pale cheeks, how the eyes shone and
the heart filled with delight at seeing the lovely world again, and
being able to take a share in its active pleasures.
The Willows was a long, low house close to the beach, and as full
as a beehive of pleasant people, all intent on having a good time. A
great many children were swarming about, and Jill found it
impossible to sleep after her journey, there was such a lively
clatter of tongues on the piazzas, and so many feet going to and fro
in the halls. She lay down obediently while Mrs. Minot settled
matters in the two airy rooms and gave her some dinner, but she
kept popping up her head to look out of the window to see what
she could see. Just opposite stood an artist's cottage and studio,
with all manner of charming galleries, towers, steps, and even a
sort of drawbridge to pull up when the painter wished to be left in
peace. He was absent now, and the visitors took possession of this
fine play-place. Children were racing up and down the galleries,
ladies sitting in the tower, boys disporting themselves on the roof,
and young gentlemen preparing for theatricals in the large studio.
"What fun I'll have over there," thought Jill, watching the merry
scene with intense interest, and wondering if the little girls she saw
were as nice as Molly and Merry.
Then there were glimpses of the sea beyond the green bank where
a path wound along to the beach, whence came the cool dash of
waves, and now and then the glimmer of a passing sail.
"Oh, when can I go out? It looks _so_ lovely, I can't wait long," she
said, looking as eager as a little gull shut up in a cage and pining
for its home on the wide ocean.
"As soon as it is a little cooler, dear, I'm getting ready for our trip,
but we must be careful and not do too much at once. 'Slow and
sure' is our motto," answered Mrs. Minot, busily collecting the
camp-stools, the shawls, the air-cushions, and the big parasols.
"I'll be good, only do let me have my sailor-hat to wear, and my
new suit. I'm not a bit tired, and I do want to be like other folks
right off," said Jill, who had been improving rapidly of late, and
felt much elated at being able to drive out nearly every day, to
walk a little, and sit up some hours without any pain or fatigue.
To gratify her, the blue flannel suit with its white trimming was
put on, and Mamma was just buttoning the stout boots when Jack
thundered at the door, and burst in with all sorts of glorious news.
"Do come out, mother, it's perfectly splendid on the beach! I've
found a nice place for Jill to sit, and it's only a step. Lots of capital
fellows here; one has a bicycle, and is going to teach us to ride. No
end of fun up at the hotel, and every one seems glad to see us. Two
ladies asked about Jill, and one of the girls has got some shells all
ready for her, Gerty Somebody, and her mother is so pretty and
jolly, I like her ever so much. They sit at our table, and Wally is
the boy, younger than I am, but very pleasant. Bacon is the fellow
in knickerbockers; just wish you could see what stout legs he's got!
Cox is the chap for me, though: we are going fishing to-morrow.
He's got a sweet-looking mother, and a sister for you, Jill. Now,
then, _do_ come on, I'll take the traps."
Off they went, and Jill thought that very short walk to the shore the
most delightful she ever took; for people smiled at the little invalid
as she went slowly by leaning on Mrs. Minot's arm, while Jack
pranced in front, doing the honors, as if he owned the whole
Atlantic. A new world opened to her eyes as they came out upon
the pebbly beach full of people enjoying their afternoon
promenade. Jill save one rapturous "Oh!" and then sat on her stool,
forgetting everything but the beautiful blue ocean rolling away to
meet the sky, with nothing to break the wide expanse but a sail
here and there, a point of rocks on one hand, the little pier on the
other, and white gulls skimming by on their wide wings.
While she sat enjoying herself, Jack showed his mother the place
he had found, and a very nice one it was. Just under the green bank
lay an old boat propped up with some big stones. A willow
drooped over it, the tide rippled up within a few yards of it, and a
fine view of the waves could be seen as they dashed over the
rocks at the point.
"Isn't it a good cubby-house? Ben Cox and I fixed it for Jill, and
she can have it for hers. Put her cushions and things there on the
sand the children have thrown in--that will make it soft; then these
seats will do for tables; and up in the bow I'm going to have that
old rusty tin boiler full of salt-water, so she can put seaweed and
crabs and all sorts of chaps in it for an aquarium, you know,"
explained Jack, greatly interested in establishing his family
comfortably before he left them.
"There couldn't be a nicer place, and it is very kind of you to get it
ready. Spread the shawls and settle Jill, then you needn't think of
us any more, but go and scramble with Frank. I see him over there
with his spy-glass and some pleasant-looking boys," said Mamma,
bustling about in great spirits.
So the red cushions were placed, the plaids laid, and the little
work-basket set upon the seat, all ready for Jill, who was charmed
with her nest, and cuddled down under the big parasol, declaring
she would keep house there every day.
Even the old boiler pleased her, and Jack raced over the beach to
begin his search for inhabitants for the new aquarium, leaving Jill
to make friends with some pretty babies digging in the sand, while
Mamma sat on the camp-stool and talked with a friend from
It seemed as if there could not be anything more delightful than to
lie there lulled by the sound of the sea, watching the sunset and
listening to the pleasant babble of little voices close by. But when
they went to tea in the great hall, with six tables full of merry
people, and half a dozen maids flying about, Jill thought that was
even better, because it was so new to her. Gerty and Wally nodded
to her, and their pretty mamma was so kind and so gay, that Jill
could not feel bashful after the first few minutes, and soon looked
about her, sure of seeing friendly faces everywhere. Frank and Jack
ate as if the salt air had already improved their appetites, and
talked about Bacon and Cox as if they had been bosom friends for
years. Mamma was as happy as they, for her friend, Mrs.
Hammond, sat close by; and this rosy lady, who had been a
physician, cheered her up by predicting that Jill would soon be
running about as well as ever.
But the best of all was in the evening, when the elder people
gathered in the parlors and played Twenty Questions, while the
children looked on for an hour before going to bed, much amused
at the sight of grown people laughing, squabbling, dodging, and
joking as if they had all become young again; for, as every one
knows, it is impossible to help lively skirmishes when that game is
played. Jill lay in the sofa corner enjoying it all immensely; for she
never saw anything so droll, and found it capital fun to help guess
the thing, or try to puzzle the opposite side. Her quick wits and
bright face attracted people, and in the pauses of the sport she held
quite a levee, for everybody was interested in the little invalid. The
girls shyly made friends in their own way, the mammas told
thrilling tales of the accidents their darlings had survived, several
gentlemen kindly offered their boats, and the boys, with the best
intentions in life, suggested strolls of two or three miles to Rafe's
Chasm and Norman's Woe, or invited her to tennis and archery, as
if violent exercise was the cure for all human ills. She was very
grateful, and reluctantly went away to bed, declaring, when she got
upstairs, that these new friends were the dearest people she ever
met, and the Willows the most delightful place in the whole world.
Next day a new life began for the young folks--a very healthy,
happy life; and all threw themselves into it so heartily, that it was
impossible to help getting great good from it, for these summer
weeks, if well spent, work miracles in tired bodies and souls.
Frank took a fancy to the bicycle boy, and, being able to hire one
of the breakneck articles, soon learned to ride it; and the two might
be seen wildly working their long legs on certain smooth stretches
of road, or getting up their muscle rowing about the bay till they
were almost as brown and nautical in appearance and language as
the fishermen who lived in nooks and corners along the shore.
Jack struck up a great friendship with the sturdy Bacon and the
agreeable Cox: the latter, being about his own age, was his
especial favorite; and they soon were called Box and Cox by the
other fellows, which did not annoy them a bit, as both had played
parts in that immortal farce. They had capital times fishing,
scrambling over the rocks, playing ball and tennis, and rainy days
they took possession of the studio opposite, drew up the portcullis,
and gallantly defended the castle, which some of the others
besieged with old umbrellas for shields, bats for battering-rams,
and bunches of burrs for cannon-balls. Great larks went on over
there, while the girls applauded from the piazza or chamber-windows,
and made a gay flag for the victors to display from the tower when
the fight was over.
But Jill had the best time of all, for each day brought increasing
strength and spirits, and she improved so fast it was hard to believe
that she was the same girl who lay so long almost helpless in the
Bird Room at home. Such lively letters as she sent her mother,
all about her new friends, her fine sails, drives, and little walks;
the good times she had in the evening, the lovely things people
gave her, and she was learning to make with shells and sea-weed,
and what splendid fun it was to keep house in a boat.
This last amusement soon grew quite absorbing, and her "cubby,"
as she called it, rapidly became a pretty grotto, where she lived
like a little mermaid, daily loving more and more the beauty of the
wonderful sea. Finding the boat too sunny at times, the boys cut
long willow boughs and arched them over the seats, laying
hemlock branches across till a green roof made it cool and shady
inside. There Jill sat or lay among her cushions reading, trying to
sketch, sorting shells, drying gay sea-weeds, or watching her crabs,
jelly-fish, and anemones in the old boiler, now buried in sand and
edged about with moss from the woods.
Nobody disturbed her treasures, but kindly added to them, and
often when she went to her nest she found fruit or flowers, books
or bon-bons, laid ready for her. Every one pitied and liked the
bright little girl who could not run and frisk with the rest, who was
so patient and cheerful after her long confinement, ready to help
others, and so grateful for any small favor. She found now that the
weary months had not been wasted, and was very happy to
discover in herself a new sort of strength and sweetness that was
not only a comfort to her, but made those about her love and trust
her. The songs she had learned attracted the babies, who would
leave their play to peep at her and listen when she sung over her
work. Passers-by paused to hear the blithe voice of the bird in the
green cage, and other invalids, strolling on the beach, would take
heart when they saw the child so happy in spite of her great trial.
The boys kept all their marine curiosities for her, and were always
ready to take her a row or a sail, as the bay was safe and that sort
of travelling suited her better than driving. But the girls had capital
times together, and it did Jill good to see another sort from those
she knew at home. She had been so much petted of late, that she
was getting rather vain of her small accomplishments, and being
with strangers richer, better bred and educated than herself, made
her more humble in some things, while it showed her the worth of
such virtues as she could honestly claim. Mamie Cox took her to
drive in the fine carriage of her mamma, and Jill was much
impressed by the fact that Mamie was not a bit proud about it, and
did not put on any airs, though she had a maid to take care of her.
Gerty wore pretty costumes, and came down with pink and blue
ribbons in her hair that Jill envied very much; yet Gerty liked her
curls, and longed to have some, while her mother, "the lady from
Philadelphia," as they called her, was so kind and gay that Jill
quite adored her, and always felt as if sunshine had come into the
room when she entered. Two little sisters were very interesting to
her, and made her long for one of her own when she saw them
going about together and heard them talk of their pleasant home,
where the great silk factories were. But they invited her to come
and see the wonderful cocoons, and taught her to knot pretty gray
fringe on a cushion, which delighted her, being so new and easy.
There were several other nice little lasses, and they all gathered
about Jill with the sweet sympathy children are so quick to show
toward those in pain or misfortune. She thought they would not
care for a poor little girl like herself, yet here she was the queen of
the troupe, and this discovery touched and pleased her very much.
In the morning they camped round the boat on the stones with
books, gay work, and merry chatter, till bathing-time. Then the
beach was full of life and fun, for every one looked so droll in the
flannel suits, it was hard to believe that the neat ladies and
respectable gentlemen who went into the little houses could be the
same persons as the queer, short-skirted women with old hats tied
down, and bareheaded, barefooted men in old suits, who came
skipping over the sand to disport themselves in the sea in the most
undignified ways. The boys raced about, looking like circus-
tumblers, and the babies were regular little cupids, running away
from the waves that tried to kiss their flying feet.
Some of the young ladies and girls were famous swimmers, and
looked very pretty in their bright red and blue costumes, with loose
hair and gay stockings, as they danced into the water and floated
away as fearlessly as real mermaidens. Jill had her quiet dip and
good rubbing each fine day, and then lay upon the warm sand
watching the pranks of the others, and longing to run and dive and
shout and tumble with the rest. Now that she was among the well
and active, it seemed harder to be patient than when shut up and
unable to stir. She felt so much better, and had so little pain to
remind her of past troubles, it was almost impossible to help
forgetting the poor back and letting her recovered spirits run away
with her. If Mrs. Minot had not kept good watch, she would have
been off more than once, so eager was she to be "like other girls"
again, so difficult was it to keep the restless feet quietly folded
among the red cushions.
One day she did yield to temptation, and took a little voyage which
might have been her last, owing to the carelessness of those whom
she trusted. It was a good lesson, and made her as meek as a lamb
during the rest of her stay. Mrs. Minot drove to Gloucester one
afternoon, leaving Jill safely established after her nap in the boat,
with Gerty and Mamie making lace beside her.
"Don't try to walk or run about, my dear. Sit on the piazza if you
get tired of this, and amuse yourself quietly till I come back. I'll
not forget the worsted and the canvas," said Mamma, peeping over
the bank for a last word as she waited for the omnibus to come
"Oh, _don't_ forget the Gibraltars!" cried Jill, popping her head
out of the green roof.
"Nor the bananas, please!" added Gerty, looking round one end.
"Nor the pink and blue ribbon to tie our shell-baskets," called
Mamie, nearly tumbling into the aquarium at the other end.
Mrs. Minot laughed, and promised, and rumbled away, leaving Jill
to an experience which she never forgot.
For half an hour the little girls worked busily, then the boys came
for Gerty and Mamie to go to the Chasm with a party of friends
who were to leave next day. Off they went, and Jill felt very lonely
as the gay voices died away. Every one had gone somewhere, and
only little Harry Hammond and his maid were on the beach. Two
or three sand-pipers ran about among the pebbles, and Jill envied
them their nimble legs so much, that she could not resist getting up
to take a few steps. She longed to run straight away over the firm,
smooth sand, and feel again the delight of swift motion; but she
dared not try it, and stood leaning on her tall parasol with her
book in her hand, when Frank, Jack, and the bicycle boy came
rowing lazily along and hailed her.
"Come for a sail, Jill? Take you anywhere you like," called Jack,
touched by the lonely figure on the beach.
"I'd love to go, if you will row. Mamma made me promise not to
go sailing without a man to take care of me. Would it spoil your
fun to have me?" answered Jill, eagerly.
"Not a bit; come out on the big stones and we'll take you aboard,"
said Frank, as they steered to the place where she could embark the
"All the rest are gone to the Chasm. I wanted to go, because I've
never seen it; but, of course, I had to give it up, as I do most of the
fun;" and Jill sat down with an impatient sigh.
"We'll row you round there. Can't land, but you can see the place
and shout to the others, if that will be any comfort to you,"
proposed Frank, as they pulled away round the pier.
"Oh, yes, that would be lovely!" and Jill smiled at Jack, who was
steering, for she found it impossible to be dismal now with the
fresh wind blowing in her face, the blue waves slapping against the
boat, and three good-natured lads ready to gratify her wishes.
Away they went, laughing and talking gayly till they came to
Goodwin's Rocks, where an unusual number of people were to be
seen though the tide was going out, and no white spray was
dashing high into the air to make a sight worth seeing.
"What do you suppose they are about? Never saw such a lot of
folks at this time. Shouldn't wonder if something had happened. I
say, put me ashore, and I'll cut up and see," said the bicycle boy,
who was of an inquiring turn.
"I'll go with you," said Frank; "it won't take but a minute, and I'd
like to discover what it is. May be something we ought to know
So the boys pulled round into a quiet nook, and the two elder ones
scrambled up the rocks, to disappear in the crowd. Five, ten,
fifteen minutes passed, and they did not return. Jack grew
impatient, so did Jill, and bade him run up and bring them back.
Glad to know what kept them, Jack departed, to be swallowed up
in his turn, for not a sign of a boy did she see after that; and,
having vainly strained her eyes to discover the attraction which
held them, she gave it up, lay down on their jackets, and began to
Then the treacherous tide, as it ebbed lower and lower down the
beach, began to lure the boat away; for it was not fastened, and
when lightened of its load was an easy prize to the hungry sea,
always ready to steal all it can. Jill knew nothing of this, for her
story was dull, the gentle motion proved soothing, and before she
knew it she was asleep. Little by little the runaway boat slid farther
from the shore, and presently was floating out to sea with its
drowsy freight, while the careless boys, unconscious of the time
they were wasting, lingered to see group after group photographed
by the enterprising man who had trundled his camera to the rocks.
In the midst of a dream about home, Jill was roused by a loud
shout, and, starting up so suddenly that the sun-umbrella went
overboard, she found herself sailing off alone, while the distracted
lads roared and beckoned vainly from the cove. The oars lay at
their feet, where they left them; and the poor child was quite
helpless, for she could not manage the sail, and even the parasol,
with which she might have paddled a little, had gone down with all
sail set. For a minute, Jill was so frightened that she could only
look about her with a scared face, and wonder if drowning was a
very disagreeable thing. Then the sight of the bicycle boy
struggling with Jack, who seemed inclined to swim after her, and
Frank shouting wildly, "Hold on! Come back!" made her laugh in
spite of her fear, it was so comical, and their distress so much
greater than hers, since it was their own carelessness which caused
"I can't come back! There's nothing to hold on to! You didn't fasten
me, and now I don't know where I'm going!" cried Jill, looking
from the shore to the treacherous sea that was gently carrying her
"Keep cool! We'll get a boat and come after you," roared Frank,
before he followed Jack, who had collected his wits and was
tearing up the rocks like a chamois hunter.
The bicycle boy calmly sat down to keep his eye on the runaway,
calling out from time to time such cheering remarks as "All aboard
for Liverpool! Give my love to Victoria! Luff and bear away when
you come to Halifax! If you are hard up for provisions, you'll find
an apple and some bait in my coat-pocket," and other directions for
a comfortable voyage, till his voice was lost in the distance as a
stronger current bore her swiftly away and the big waves began to
tumble and splash.
At first Jill had laughed at his efforts to keep up her spirits, but
when the boat floated round a point of rock that shut in the cove,
she felt all alone, and sat quite still, wondering what would
become of her. She turned her back to the sea and looked at the
dear, safe land, which never had seemed so green and beautiful
before. Up on the hill rustled the wood through which the happy
party were wandering to the Chasm. On the rocks she still saw the
crowd all busy with their own affairs, unconscious of her danger.
Here and there artists were sketching in picturesque spots, and in
one place an old gentleman sat fishing peacefully. Jill called and
waved her handkerchief, but he never looked up, and an ugly little
dog barked at her in what seemed to her a most cruel way.
"Nobody sees or hears or cares, and those horrid boys will never
catch up!" she cried in despair, as the boat began to rock more and
more, and the loud swash of water dashing in and out of the
Chasm drew nearer and nearer. Holding on now with both hands
she turned and looked straight before her, pale and shivering,
while her eyes tried to see some sign of hope among the steep
cliffs that rose up on the left. No one was there, though usually at
this hour they were full of visitors, and it was time for the walkers
to have arrived.
"I wonder if Gerty and Mamie will be sorry if I'm drowned,"
thought Jill, remembering the poor girl who had been lost in the
Chasm not long ago. Her lively fancy pictured the grief of her
friends at her loss; but that did not help or comfort her now, and as
her anxious gaze wandered along the shore, she said aloud, in a
"Perhaps I shall be wrecked on Norman's Woe, and somebody will
make poetry about me. It would be pretty to read, but I don't want
to die that way. Oh, why did I come! Why didn't I stay safe and
comfortable in my own boat?"
At the thought a sob rose, and poor Jill laid her head down on her
lap to cry with all her heart, feeling very helpless, small, and
forsaken alone there on the great sea. In the midst of her tears
came the thought, "When people are in danger, they ask God to
save them;" and, slipping down upon her knees, she said her prayer
as she had never said it before, for when human help seems gone
we turn to Him as naturally as lost children cry to their father, and
feel sure that he will hear and answer them.
After that she felt better, and wiped away the drops that blinded
her, to look out again like a shipwrecked mariner watching for a
sail. And there it was! Close by, coming swiftly on with a man
behind it, a sturdy brown fisher, busy with his lobster-pots, and
quite unconscious how like an angel he looked to the helpless little
girl in the rudderless boat.
"Hi! hi! Oh, please do stop and get me! I'm lost, no oars, nobody to
fix the sail! Oh, oh! please come!" screamed Jill, waving her hat
frantically as the other boat skimmed by and the man stared at her
as if she really was a mermaid with a fishy tail.
"Keep still! I'll come about and fetch you!" he called out; and Jill
obeyed, sitting like a little image of faith, till with a good deal of
shifting and flapping of the sail, the other boat came alongside and
took her in tow.
A few words told the story, and in five minutes she was sitting
snugly tucked up watching an unpleasant mass of lobsters flap
about dangerously near her toes, while the boat bounded over the
waves with a delightful motion, and every instant brought her
nearer home. She did not say much, but felt a good deal; and when
they met two boats coming to meet her, manned by very anxious
crews of men and boys, she was so pale and quiet that Jack was
quite bowed down with remorse, and Frank nearly pitched the
bicycle boy overboard because he gayly asked Jill how she left her
friends in England. There was great rejoicing over her, for the
people on the rocks had heard of her loss, and ran about like ants
when their hill is disturbed. Of course half a dozen amiable souls
posted off to the Willows to tell the family that the little girl was
drowned, so that when the rescuers appeared quite a crowd was
assembled on the beach to welcome her. But Jill felt so used up
with her own share of the excitement that she was glad to be
carried to the house by Frank and Jack, and laid upon her bed,
where Mrs. Hammond soon restored her with sugar-coated pills,
and words even sweeter and more soothing.
Other people, busied with their own pleasures, forgot all about it
by the next day; but Jill remembered that hour long afterward, both
awake and asleep, for her dreams were troubled, and she often
started up imploring someone to save her. Then she would recall
the moment when, feeling most helpless, she had asked for help,
and it had come as quickly as if that tearful little cry had been
heard and answered, though her voice had been drowned by the
dash of the waves that seemed ready to devour her. This made
a deep impression on her, and a sense of childlike faith in the
Father of all began to grow up within her; for in that lonely
voyage, short as it was, she had found a very precious treasure to
keep for ever, to lean on, and to love during the longer voyage
which all must take before we reach our home.
A Happy Day
"Oh dear! Only a week more, and then we must go back. Don't you
hate the thoughts of it?" said Jack, as he was giving Jill her early
walk on the beach one August morning.
"Yes, it will be dreadful to leave Gerty and Mamie and all the nice
people. But I'm so much better I won't have to be shut up again,
even if I don't go to school. How I long to see Merry and Molly.
Dear things, if it wasn't for them I should hate going home more
than you do," answered Jill, stepping along quite briskly, and
finding it very hard to resist breaking into a skip or a run, she felt
so well and gay.
"Wish they could be here to-day to see the fun," said Jack, for it
was the anniversary of the founding of the place, and the people
celebrated it by all sorts of festivity.
"I did want to ask Molly, but your mother is so good to me I
couldn't find courage to do it. Mammy told me not to ask for a
thing, and I'm sure I don't get a chance. I feel just as if I was your
truly born sister, Jack."
"That's all right, I'm glad you do," answered Jack, comfortably,
though his mind seemed a little absent and his eyes twinkled when
she spoke of Molly. "Now, you sit in the cubby-house, and keep
quiet till the boat comes in. Then the fun will begin, and you must
be fresh and ready to enjoy it. Don't run off, now, I shall want to
know where to find you by and by."
"No more running off, thank you. I'll stay here till you come, and
finish this box for Molly; she has a birthday this week, and I've
written to ask what day, so I can send it right up and surprise her."
Jack's eyes twinkled more than ever as he helped Jill settle herself
in the boat, and then with a whoop he tore over the beach, as if
practising for the race which was to come off in the afternoon.
Jill was so busy with her work that time went quickly, and the
early boat came in just as the last pink shell was stuck in its place.
Putting the box in the sun to dry, she leaned out of her nook to
watch the gay parties land, and go streaming up the pier along the
road that went behind the bank that sheltered her. Flocks of
children were running about on the sand, and presently strangers
appeared, eager to see and enjoy all the delights of this gala-day.
"There's a fat little boy who looks ever so much like Boo," said Jill
to herself, watching the people and hoping they would not come
and find her, since she had promised to stay till Jack returned.
The fat little boy was staring about him in a blissful sort of maze,
holding a wooden shovel in one hand and the skirts of a young girl
with the other. Her back was turned to Jill, but something in the
long brown braid with a fly-away blue bow hanging down her back
looked very familiar to Jill. So did the gray suit and the Japanese
umbrella; but the hat was strange, and while she was thinking how
natural the boots looked, the girl turned round.
"Why, how much she looks like Molly! It can't be--yes, it might, I
do believe it _is_!" cried Jill, starting up and hardly daring to trust
her own eyes.
As she came out of her nest and showed herself, there could be no
doubt about the other girl, for she gave one shout and came racing
over the beach with both arms out, while her hat blew off
unheeded, and the gay umbrella flew away, to the great delight of
all the little people except Boo, who was upset by his sister's
impetuous rush, and lay upon his back howling. Molly did not do
all the running, though, and Jill got her wish, for, never stopping to
think of herself, she was off at once, and met her friend half-way
with an answering cry. It was a pretty sight to see them run into
one another's arms and hug and kiss and talk and skip in such a
state of girlish joy they never cared who saw or laughed at their
"You darling dear! where did you come from?" cried Jill, holding
Molly by both shoulders, and shaking her a little to be sure she was
"Mrs. Minot sent for us to spend a week. You look so well, I can't
believe my eyes!" answered Molly, patting Jill's cheeks and kissing
them over and over, as if to make sure the bright color would not
"A week? How splendid! Oh, I've such heaps to tell and show you;
come right over to my cubby and see how lovely it is," said Jill,
forgetting everybody else in her delight at getting Molly.
"I must get poor Boo, and my hat and umbrella, I left them all
behind me when I saw you," laughed Molly, looking back.
But Mrs. Minot and Jack had consoled Boo and collected the
scattered property, so the girls went on arm in arm, and had a fine
time before any one had the heart to disturb them. Molly was
charmed with the boat, and Jill very glad the box was done in
season. Both had so much to tell and hear and plan, that they
would have sat there for ever if bathing-time had not come, and
the beach suddenly looked like a bed of red and yellow tulips, for
every one took a dip, and the strangers added much to the fun.
Molly could swim like a duck, and quite covered herself with glory
by diving off the pier. Jack undertook to teach Boo, who was a
promising pupil, being so plump that he could not sink if he tried.
Jill was soon through, and lay on the sand enjoying the antics of
the bathers till she was so faint with laughter she was glad to hear
the dinner-horn and do the honors of the Willows to Molly, whose
room was next hers.
Boat-races came first in the afternoon, and the girls watched them,
sitting luxuriously in the nest, with the ladies and children close
by. The sailing-matches were very pretty to see; but Molly and Jill
were more interested in the rowing, for Frank and the bicycle boy
pulled one boat, and the friends felt that this one must win. It did,
though the race was not very exciting nor the prize of great worth;
but the boys and girls were satisfied, and Jack was much exalted,
for he always told Frank he could do great things if he would only
drop books and "go in on his muscle."
Foot-races followed, and, burning to distinguish himself also, Jack
insisted on trying, though his mother warned him that the weak leg
might be harmed, and he had his own doubts about it, as he was all
out of practice. However, he took his place with a handkerchief
tied round his head, red shirt and stockings, and his sleeves rolled
up as if he meant business. Jill and Molly could not sit still during
this race, and stood on the bank quite trembling with excitement as
the half-dozen runners stood in a line at the starting-post waiting
for the word "Go!"
Off they went at last over the smooth beach to the pole with the
flag at the further end, and every one watched them with mingled
interest and merriment, for they were a droll set, and the running
not at all scientific with most of them. One young fisherman with
big boots over his trousers started off at a great pace, pounding
along in the most dogged way, while a little chap in a tight
bathing-suit with very thin legs skimmed by him, looking so like a
sand-piper it was impossible to help laughing at both. Jack's
former training stood him in good stead now; for he went to work
in professional style, and kept a steady trot till the flagpole had
been passed, then he put on his speed and shot ahead of all the
rest, several of whom broke down and gave up. But Cox and
Bacon held on gallantly; and soon it was evident that the sturdy
legs in the knickerbockers were gaining fast, for Jack gave his
ankle an ugly wrench on a round pebble, and the weak knee began
to fail. He did his best, however, and quite a breeze of enthusiasm
stirred the spectators as the three boys came down the course like
mettlesome horses, panting, pale, or purple, but each bound to win
at any cost.
"Now, Bacon!" "Go it, Minot!" "Hit him up, Cox!" "Jack's ahead!" "No,
he isn't!" "Here they come!" "Bacon's done it!" shouted the other
boys, and they were right; Bacon had won, for the gray legs came
in just half a yard ahead of the red ones, and Minot tumbled into
his brother's arms with hardly breath enough left to gasp out,
good-humoredly, "All right, I'm glad he beat!"
Then the victor was congratulated and borne off by his friends to
refresh himself, while the lookers-on scattered to see a game of
tennis and the shooting of the Archery Club up at the hotel. Jack
was soon rested, and, making light of his defeat, insisted on taking
the girls to see the fun. So they drove up in the old omnibus, and
enjoyed the pretty sight very much; for the young ladies were in
uniform, and the broad green ribbons over the white dresses, the
gay quivers, long bows, and big targets, made a lively scene. The
shooting was good; a handsome damsel got the prize of a dozen
arrows, and every one clapped in the most enthusiastic manner.
Molly and Jill did not care about tennis, so they went home to rest
and dress for the evening, because to their minds the dancing, the
illumination, and the fireworks were the best fun of all. Jill's white
bunting with cherry ribbons was very becoming, and the lively feet
in the new slippers patted the floor impatiently as the sound of
dance music came down to the Willows after tea, and the other
girls waltzed on the wide piazza because they could not keep still.
"No dancing for me, but Molly must have a good time. You'll see
that she does, won't you, boys?" said Jill, who knew that her share
of the fun would be lying on a settee and watching the rest enjoy
her favorite pastime.
Frank and Jack promised, and kept their word handsomely; for
there was plenty of room in the great dancing-hall at the hotel, and
the band in the pavilion played such inspiring music that, as the
bicycle boy said, "Every one who had a leg couldn't help shaking
it." Molly was twirled about to her heart's content, and flew hither
and thither like a blue butterfly; for all the lads liked her, and she
kept running up to tell Jill the funny things they said and did.
As night darkened from all the houses in the valley, on the cliffs
and along the shore lights shone and sparkled; for every one
decorated with gay lanterns, and several yachts in the bay strung
colored lamps about the little vessels, making a pretty picture on
the quiet sea. Jill thought she had never seen anything so like
fairy-land, and felt very like one in a dream as she drove slowly up
and down with Mamie, Gerty, Molly, and Mrs. Cox in the carriage,
so that she might see it all without too much fatigue. It was very
lovely; and when rockets began to whizz, filling the air with
golden rain, a shower of colored stars, fiery dragons, or glittering
wheels, the girls could only shriek with delight, and beg to stay a
little longer each time the prudent lady proposed going home.
It had to be at last; but Molly and Jill comforted themselves by a
long talk in bed, for it was impossible to sleep with glares of light
coming every few minutes, flocks of people talking and tramping
by in the road, and bursts of music floating down to them as the
older but not wiser revellers kept up the merriment till a late hour.
They dropped off at last; but Jill had the nightmare, and Molly
was waked up by a violent jerking of her braid as Jill tried to tow
her along, dreaming she was a boat.
They were too sleepy to laugh much then, but next morning they
made merry over it, and went to breakfast with such happy faces
that all the young folks pronounced Jill's friend a most delightful
girl. What a good time Molly did have that week! Other people
were going to leave also, and therefore much picnicking, boating,
and driving was crowded into the last days. Clambakes on the
shore, charades in the studio, sewing-parties at the boat, evening
frolics in the big dining-room, farewell calls, gifts, and invitations,
all sorts of plans for next summer, and vows of eternal friendship
exchanged between people who would soon forget each other. It
was very pleasant, till poor Boo innocently added to the
excitement by poisoning a few of his neighbors with a bad lobster.
The ambitious little soul pined to catch one of these mysterious
but lovely red creatures, and spent days fishing on the beach,
investigating holes and corners, and tagging after the old man who
supplied the house. One day after a high wind he found several
"lobs" washed up on the beach, and, though disappointed at their
color, he picked out a big one, and set off to show his prize to
Molly. Half-way home he met the old man on his way with a
basket of fish, and being tired of lugging his contribution laid it
with the others, meaning to explain later. No one saw him do it, as
the old man was busy with his pipe; and Boo ran back to get more
dear lobs, leaving his treasure to go into the kettle and appear at
supper, by which time he had forgotten all about it.
Fortunately none of the children ate any, but several older people
were made ill, and quite a panic prevailed that night as one after
the other called up the doctor, who was boarding close by; and
good Mrs. Grey, the hostess, ran about with hot flannels, bottles of
medicine, and distracted messages from room to room. All were
comfortable by morning, but the friends of the sufferers lay in wait
for the old fisherman, and gave him a good scolding for his
carelessness. The poor man was protesting his innocence when
Boo, who was passing by, looked into the basket, and asked what
had become of his lob. A few questions brought the truth to light,
and a general laugh put every one in good humor, when poor Boo
mildly said, by way of explanation,--
"I fought I was helpin' Mrs. Dray, and I did want to see the dreen
lob come out all red when she boiled him. But I fordot, and I don't
fink I'll ever find such a nice big one any more."
"For our sakes, I hope you won't, my dear," said Mrs. Hammond,
who had been nursing one of the sufferers.
"It's lucky we are going home to-morrow, or that child would be
the death of himself and everybody else. He is perfectly crazy
about fish, and I've pulled him out of that old lobster-pot on the
beach a dozen times," groaned Molly, much afflicted by the
mishaps of her young charge.
There was a great breaking up next day, and the old omnibus went
off to the station with Bacon hanging on behind, the bicycle boy
and his iron whirligig atop, and heads popping out of all the
windows for last good-byes. Our party and the Hammonds were
going by boat, and were all ready to start for the pier when Boo
and little Harry were missing. Molly, the maid, and both boys ran
different ways to find them; and all sorts of dreadful suggestions
were being made when shouts of laughter were heard from the
beach, and the truants appeared, proudly dragging in Harry's little
wagon a dead devil-fish, as the natives call that ugly thing which
looks like a magnified tadpole--all head and no body.
"We've dot him!" called the innocents, tugging up their prize with
such solemn satisfaction it was impossible to help laughing.
"I always wanted to tatch a whale, and this is a baby one, I fink. A
boy said, when they wanted to die they comed on the sand and did
it, and we saw this one go dead just now. Ain't he pretty?" asked
Boo, displaying the immense mouth with fond pride, while his
friend flapped the tail.
"What are you going to do with him?" said Mrs. Hammond,
regarding her infant as if she often asked herself the same question
about her boy.
"Wap him up in a paper and tate him home to pay wid," answered
Harry, with such confidence in his big blue eyes that it was very
hard to disappoint his hopes and tell him the treasure must be left
Wails of despair burst from both children as the hard-hearted boys
tipped out the little whale, and hustled the indignant fishermen on
board the boat, which had been whistling for them impatiently.
Boo recovered his spirits first, and gulping down a sob that nearly
shook his hat off, consoled his companion in affliction and
convulsed his friends by taking from his pocket several little crabs,
the remains of a jelly-fish, and such a collection of pebbles that
Frank understood why he found the fat boy such a burden when he
shouldered him, kicking and howling, in the late run to the boat.
These delicate toys healed the wounds of Boo and Harry, and they
were soon happily walking the little "trabs" about inside a stone
wall of their own building, while the others rested after their
exertions, and laid plans for coming to the Willows another year,
as people usually did who had once tasted the wholesome delights
and cordial hospitality of this charming place.
The children were not the only ones who had learned something at
Pebbly Beach. Mrs. Minot had talked a good deal with some very
superior persons, and received light upon various subjects which
had much interested or perplexed her. While the ladies worked or
walked together, they naturally spoke oftenest and most earnestly
about their children, and each contributed her experience. Mrs.
Hammond, who had been a physician for many years, was wise in
the care of healthy little bodies, and the cure of sick ones. Mrs.
Channing, who had read, travelled, and observed much in the
cause of education, had many useful hints about the training of
young minds and hearts. Several teachers reported their trials, and
all the mothers were eager to know how to bring up their boys and
girls to be healthy, happy, useful men and women.
As young people do not care for such discussions, we will not
describe them, but as the impression they made upon one of the
mammas affected our hero and heroine, we must mention the
changes which took place in their life when they all got home
"School begins to-morrow. Oh, dear!" sighed Jack, as he looked up
his books in the Bird Room, a day or two after their return.
"Don't you want to go? I long to, but don't believe I shall. I saw our
mothers talking to the doctor last night, but I haven't dared to ask
what they decided," said Jill, affectionately eying the long-unused
books in her little library.
"I've had such a jolly good time, that I hate to be shut up all day
worse than ever. Don't you, Frank?" asked Jack, with a vengeful
slap at the arithmetic which was the torment of his life.
"Well, I confess I don't hanker for school as much as I expected.
I'd rather take a spin on the old bicycle. Our roads are so good, it is
a great temptation to hire a machine, and astonish the natives.
That's what comes of idleness. So brace up, my boy, and go to
work, for vacation is over," answered Frank, gravely regarding the
tall pile of books before him, as if trying to welcome his old
friends, or tyrants, rather, for they ruled him with a rod of iron
when he once gave himself up to them.
"Ah, but vacation is not over, my dears," said Mrs. Minot, hearing
the last words as she came in prepared to surprise her family.
"Glad of it. How much longer is it to be?" asked Jack, hoping for a
week at least.
"Two or three years for some of you."
"What?" cried all three, in utter astonishment, as they stared at
Mamma, who could not help smiling, though she was very much in
"For the next two or three years I intend to cultivate my boys'
bodies, and let their minds rest a good deal, from books at least.
There is plenty to learn outside of school-houses, and I don't mean
to shut you up just when you most need all the air and exercise you
can get. Good health, good principles, and a good education are
the three blessings I ask for you, and I am going to make sure of
the first, as a firm foundation for the other two."
"But, mother, what becomes of college?" asked Frank, rather
disturbed at this change of base.
"Put it off for a year, and see if you are not better fitted for it then
"But I am already fitted: I've worked like a tiger all this year, and
I'm sure I shall pass."
"Ready in one way, but not in another. That hard work is no
preparation for four years of still harder study. It has cost you these
round shoulders, many a headache, and consumed hours when you
had far better have been on the river or in the fields. I cannot have
you break down, as so many boys do, or pull through at the cost of
ill-health afterward. Eighteen is young enough to begin the steady
grind, if you have a strong constitution to keep pace with the eager
mind. Sixteen is too young to send even my good boy out into the
world, just when he most needs his mother's care to help him be
the man she hopes to see him."
Mrs. Minot laid her hand on his shoulder as she spoke, looking so
fond and proud that it was impossible to rebel, though some of his
most cherished plans were spoilt.
"Other fellows go at my age, and I was rather pleased to be ready
at sixteen," he began. But she added, quickly,--
"They go, but how do they come out? Many lose health of body,
and many what is more precious still, moral strength, because too
young and ignorant to withstand temptations of all sorts. The best
part of education does not come from books, and the good
principles I value more than either of the other things are to be
carefully watched over till firmly fixed; then you may face the
world, and come to no real harm. Trust me, dear, I do it for your
sake; so bear the disappointment bravely, and in the end I think
you will say I'm right."
"I'll do my best; but I don't see what is to become of us if we don't
go to school. You will get tired of it first," said Frank, trying to set
a good example to the others, who were looking much impressed
"No danger of that, for I never sent my children to school to get rid
of them, and now that they are old enough to be companions, I
want them at home more than ever. There are to be some lessons,
however, for busy minds must be fed, but not crammed; so you
boys will go and recite at certain hours such things as seem most
important. But there is to be no studying at night, no shutting up all
the best hours of the day, no hurry and fret of getting on fast, or
skimming over the surface of many studies without learning any
"So I say!" cried Jack, pleased with the new idea, for he never did
love books. "I do hate to be driven so I don't half understand,
because there is no time to have things explained. School is good
fun as far as play goes; but I don't see the sense of making a fellow
learn eighty questions in geography one day, and forget them the
"What is to become of me, please?" asked Jill, meekly.
"You and Molly are to have lessons here. I was a teacher when I
was young, you know, and liked it, so I shall be school-ma'am, and
leave my house-keeping in better hands than mine. I always
thought that mothers should teach their girls during these years,
and vary their studies to suit the growing creatures as only mothers
"That will be splendid! Will Molly's father let her come?" cried
Jill, feeling quite reconciled to staying at home, if her friend was
to be with her.
"He likes the plan very much, for Molly is growing fast, and needs
a sort of care that Miss Dawes cannot give her. I am not a hard
mistress, and I hope you will find my school a pleasant one."
"I know I shall; and I'm not disappointed, because I was pretty sure
I couldn't go to the old school again, when I heard the doctor say I
must be very careful for a long time. I thought he meant months;
but if it must be years, I can bear it, for I've been happy this last
one though I was sick," said Jill, glad to show that it had not been
wasted time by being cheerful and patient now.
"That's my good girl!" and Mrs. Minot stroked the curly black head
as if it was her own little daughter's. "You have done so well, I
want you to go on improving, for care now will save you pain and
disappointment by and by. You all have got a capital start during
these six weeks, so it is a good time to begin my experiment. If it
does not work well, we will go back to school and college next
"Hurrah for Mamma and the long vacation!" cried Jack, catching
up two big books and whirling them round like clubs, as if to get
his muscles in order at once.
"Now I shall have time to go to the Gymnasium and straighten out
my back," said Frank, who was growing so tall he needed more
breadth to make his height symmetrical.
"And to ride horseback. I am going to hire old Jane and get out the
little phaeton, so we can all enjoy the fine weather while it lasts.
Molly and I can drive Jill, and you can take turns in the saddle
when you are tired of ball and boating. Exercise of all sorts is one
of the lessons we are to learn," said Mrs. Minot, suggesting all the
pleasant things she could to sweeten the pill for her pupils, two of
whom did love their books, not being old enough to know that
even an excellent thing may be overdone.
"Won't that be gay? I'll get down the saddle to-day, so we can
begin right off. Lem rides, and we can go together. Hope old Jane
will like it as well as I shall," said Jack, who had found a new
friend in a pleasant lad lately come to town.
"You must see that she does, for you boys are to take care of her.
We will put the barn in order, and you can decide which shall be
hostler and which gardener, for I don't intend to hire labor on the
place any more. Our estate is not a large one, and it will be
excellent work for you, my men."
"All right! I'll see to Jane. I love horses," said Jack, well pleased
with the prospect.
"My horse won't need much care. I prefer a bicycle to a beast, so
I'll get in the squashes, pick the apples, and cover the strawberry
bed when it is time," added Frank, who had enjoyed the free life at
Pebbly Beach so much that he was willing to prolong it.
"You may put me in a hen-coop, and keep me there a year, if you
like. I won't fret, for I'm sure you know what is best for me," said
Jill, gayly, as she looked up at the good friend who had done so
much for her.
"I'm not sure that I won't put you in a pretty cage and send you to
Cattle Show, as a sample of what we can do in the way of taming a
wild bird till it is nearly as meek as a dove," answered Mrs. Minot,
much gratified at the amiability of her flock.
"I don't see why there should not be an exhibition of children, and
prizes for the good and pretty ones, as well as for fat pigs, fine
horses, or handsome fruit and flowers--I don't mean a baby show,
but boys and girls, so people can see what the prospect is of a good
crop for the next generation," said Frank, glancing toward the
tower of the building where the yearly Agricultural Fair was soon
to be held.
"Years ago, there was a pretty custom here of collecting all the
schools together in the spring, and having a festival at the Town
Hall. Each school showed its best pupils, and the parents looked
on at the blooming flower show. It was a pity it was ever given up,
for the schools have never been so good as then, nor the interest in
them so great;" and Mrs. Minot wondered, as many people do, why
farmers seem to care more for their cattle and crops than for their
children, willingly spending large sums on big barns and costly
experiments, while the school-houses are shabby and inconvenient,
and the cheapest teachers preferred.
"Ralph is going to send my bust. He asked if he might, and mother
said Yes. Mr. German thinks it very good, and I hope other people
will," said Jill, nodding toward the little plaster head that smiled
down from its bracket with her own merry look.
"I could send my model; it is nearly done. Ralph told me it was a
clever piece of work, and he knows," added Frank, quite taken
with the idea of exhibiting his skill in mechanics.
"And I could send my star bedquilt! They always have things of
that kind at Cattle Show;" and Jill began to rummage in the closet
for the pride of her heart, burning to display it to an admiring
"I haven't got anything. Can't sew rags together; or make baby
engines, and I have no live-stock--yes, I have too! There's old Bun.
I'll send him, for the fun of it; he really is a curiosity, for he is the
biggest one I ever saw, and hopping into the lime has made his fur
such a queer color, he looks like a new sort of rabbit. I'll catch and
shut him up before he gets wild again;" and off rushed Jack to lure
unsuspecting old Bun, who had grown tame during their absence,
into the cage which he detested.
They all laughed at his ardor, but the fancy pleased them; and as
Mamma saw no reason why their little works of art should not be
sent, Frank fell to work on his model, and Jill resolved to finish
her quilt at once, while Mrs. Minot went off to see Mr. Acton
about the hours and studies for the boys.
In a week or two, the young people were almost resigned to the
loss of school, for they found themselves delightfully fresh for the
few lessons they did have, and not weary of play, since it took
many useful forms. Old Jane not only carried them all to ride, but
gave Jack plenty of work keeping her premises in nice order. Frank
mourned privately over the delay of college, but found a solace in
his whirligig and the Gymnasium, where he set himself to
developing a chest to match the big head above, which head no
longer ached with eight or ten hours of study. Harvesting beans
and raking up leaves seemed to have a soothing effect upon his
nerves, for now he fell asleep at once instead of thumping his
pillow with vexation because his brain would go on working at
difficult problems and passages when he wanted it to stop.
Jill and Molly drove away in the little phaeton every fair morning
over the sunny hills and through the changing woods, filling their
hands with asters and golden-rod, their lungs with the pure,
invigorating air, and their heads with all manner of sweet and
happy fancies and feelings born of the wholesome influences about
them. People shook their heads, and said it was wasting time; but
the rosy-faced girls were content to trust those wiser than
themselves, and found their new school very pleasant. They read
aloud a good deal, rapidly acquiring one of the rarest and most
beautiful accomplishments; for they could stop and ask questions
as they went along, so that they understood what they read, which
is half the secret. A thousand things came up as they sewed
together in the afternoon, and the eager minds received much
general information in an easy and well-ordered way. Physiology
was one of the favorite studies, and Mrs. Hammond often came in
to give them a little lecture, teaching them to understand the
wonders of their own systems, and how to keep them in order--a
lesson of far more importance just then than Greek or Latin, for
girls are the future mothers, nurses, teachers, of the race, and
should feel how much depends on them. Merry could not resist the
attractions of the friendly circle, and soon persuaded her mother to
let her do as they did; so she got more exercise and less study,
which was just what the delicate girl needed.
The first of the new ideas seemed to prosper, and the second,
though suggested in joke, was carried out in earnest, for the other
young people were seized with a strong desire to send something
to the Fair. In fact, all sorts of queer articles were proposed, and
much fun prevailed, especially among the boys, who ransacked
their gardens for mammoth vegetables, sighed for five-legged
calves, blue roses, or any other natural curiosity by means of which
they might distinguish themselves. Ralph was the only one who
had anything really worth sending; for though Frank's model
seemed quite perfect, it obstinately refused to go, and at the last
moment blew up with a report like a pop-gun. So it was laid away
for repairs, and its disappointed maker devoted his energies to
helping Jack keep Bun in order; for that indomitable animal got
out of every prison they put him in, and led Jack a dreadful life
during that last week. At all hours of the day and night that
distracted boy would start up, crying, "There he is again!" and dart
out to give chase and capture the villain now grown too fat to run
as he once did.
The very night before the Fair, Frank was wakened by a chilly
draught, and, getting up to see where it came from, found Jack's
door open and bed empty, while the vision of a white ghost flitting
about the garden suggested a midnight rush after old Bun. Frank
watched laughingly, till poor Jack came toward the house with the
gentleman in gray kicking lustily in his arms, and then whispered
in a sepulchral tone,--
"Put him in the old refrigerator, he can't get out of that."
Blessing him for the suggestion, the exhausted hunter shut up his
victim in the new cell, and found it a safe one, for Bun could not
burrow through a sheet of zinc, or climb up the smooth walls.
Jill's quilt was a very elaborate piece of work, being bright blue with
little white stars all over it; this she finished nicely, and felt sure
no patient old lady could outdo it. Merry decided to send butter,
for she had been helping her mother in the dairy that summer, and
rather liked the light part of the labor. She knew it would please
her very much if she chose that instead of wild flowers, so she
practised moulding the yellow pats into pretty shapes, that it might
please both eye and taste.
Molly declared she would have a little pen, and put Boo in it, as
the prize fat boy--a threat which so alarmed the innocent that he
ran away, and was found two or three miles from home, asleep
under the wall, with two seed-cakes and a pair of socks done up in
a bundle. Being with difficulty convinced that it was a joke, he
consented to return to his family, but was evidently suspicious, till
Molly decided to send her cats, and set about preparing them for
exhibition. The Minots' deserted Bunny-house was rather large; but
as cats cannot be packed as closely as much-enduring sheep, Molly
borrowed this desirable family mansion, and put her darlings into
it, where they soon settled down, and appeared to enjoy their new
residence. It had been scrubbed up and painted red, cushions and
plates put in, and two American flags adorned the roof. Being
barred all round, a fine view of the Happy Family could be had,
now twelve in number, as Molasses had lately added three white
kits to the varied collection.
The girls thought this would be the most interesting spectacle of
all, and Grif proposed to give some of the cats extra tails, to
increase their charms, especially poor Mortification, who would
appreciate the honor of two, after having none for so long. But
Molly declined, and Grif looked about him for some attractive
animal to exhibit, so that he too might go in free and come to
A young lady in the town owned a donkey, a small, gray beast,
who insisted on tripping along the sidewalks and bumping her
rider against the walls as she paused to browse at her own sweet
will, regardless of blows or cries, till ready to move on. Expressing
great admiration for this rare animal, Grif obtained leave to display
the charms of Graciosa at the Fair. Little did she guess the dark
designs entertained against her dignity, and happily she was not as
sensitive to ridicule as a less humble-minded animal, so she went
willingly with her new friend, and enjoyed the combing and
trimming up which she received at his hands, while he prepared
for the great occasion.
When the morning of September 28th arrived, the town was all
astir, and the Fair ground a lively scene. The air was full of the
lowing of cattle, the tramp of horses, squealing of indignant pigs,
and clatter of tongues, as people and animals streamed in at the
great gate and found their proper places. Our young folks were in a
high state of excitement, as they rumbled away with their treasures
in a hay-cart. The Bunny-house might have been a cage of tigers,
so rampant were the cats at this new move. Old Bun, in a small
box, brooded over the insult of the refrigerator, and looked as
fierce as a rabbit could. Gus had a coop of rare fowls, who clucked
wildly all the way, while Ralph, with the bust in his arms, stood up
in front, and Jill and Molly bore the precious bedquilt, as they sat
These objects of interest were soon arranged, and the girls went to
admire Merry's golden butter cups among the green leaves, under
which lay the ice that kept the pretty flowers fresh. The boys were
down below, where the cackling was very loud, but not loud
enough to drown the sonorous bray which suddenly startled them
as much as it did the horses outside. A shout of laughter followed,
and away went the lads, to see what the fun was, while the girls
ran out on the balcony, as someone said, "It's that rogue of a Grif
with some new joke."
It certainly was, and, to judge from the peals of merriment, the
joke was a good one. In at the gate came a two-headed donkey,
ridden by Grif, in great spirits at his success, for the gate-keeper
laughed so he never thought to ask for toll. A train of boys
followed him across the ground, lost in admiration of the animal
and the cleverness of her rider. Among the stage properties of the
Dramatic Club was the old ass's head once used in some tableaux
from "Midsummer Night's Dream." This Grif had mended up, and
fastened by means of straps and a collar to poor Graciosa's neck,
hiding his work with a red cloth over her back. One eye was gone,
but the other still opened and shut, and the long ears wagged by
means of strings, which he slyly managed with the bridle, so the
artificial head looked almost as natural as the real one. The
funniest thing of all was the innocent air of Graciosa, and the
mildly inquiring expression with which she now and then turned to
look at or to smell of the new ornament as if she recognized a
friend's face, yet was perplexed by its want of animation. She
vented her feelings in a bray, which Grif imitated, convulsing all
hearers by the sound as well as by the wink the one eye gave, and
the droll waggle of one erect ear, while the other pointed straight
The girls laughed so at the ridiculous sight that they nearly fell
over the railing, and the boys were in ecstasies, especially when
Grif, emboldened by his success, trotted briskly round the
race-course, followed by the cheers of the crowd. Excited by the
noise, Graciosa did her best, till the false head, loosened by the
rapid motion, slipped round under her nose, causing her to stop so
suddenly that Grif flew off, alighting on his own head with a
violence which would have killed any other boy. Sobered by his
downfall, he declined to mount again, but led his steed to repose in
a shed, while he rejoined his friends, who were waiting impatiently
to congratulate him on his latest and best prank.
The Committee went their rounds soon after, and, when the doors
were again opened, every one hurried to see if their articles had
received a premium. A card lay on the butter cups, and Mrs. Grant
was full of pride because _her_ butter always took a prize, and this
proved that Merry was walking in her mother's steps, in this
direction at least. Another card swung from the blue quilt, for the
kindly judges knew who made it, and were glad to please the little
girl, though several others as curious but not so pretty hung near
by. The cats were admired, but, as they were not among the
animals usually exhibited, there was no prize awarded. Gus hoped
his hens would get one; but somebody else outdid him, to the great
indignation of Laura and Lotty, who had fed the white biddies
faithfully for months. Jack was sure his rabbit was the biggest
there, and went eagerly to look for his premium. But neither card
nor Bun were to be seen, for the old rascal had escaped for the last
time, and was never seen again; which was a great comfort to Jack,
who was heartily tired of him.
Ralph's bust was the best of all, for not only did it get a prize, and
was much admired, but a lady, who found Jill and Merry rejoicing
over it, was so pleased with the truth and grace of the little head,
that she asked about the artist, and whether he would do one of her
own child, who was so delicate she feared he might not live long.
Merry gladly told the story of her ambitious friend, and went to
find him, that he might secure the order. While she was gone, Jill
took up the tale, gratefully telling how kind he had been to her,
how patiently he worked and waited, and how much he longed to
go abroad. Fortunately the lady was rich and generous, as well as
fond of art, and being pleased with the bust, and interested in the
young sculptor, gave him the order when he came, and filled his
soul with joy by adding, that, if it suited her when done, it should
be put into marble. She lived in the city, and Ralph soon arranged
his work so that he could give up his noon hour, and go to model
the child; for every penny he could earn or save now was very
precious, as he still hoped to go abroad.
The girls were so delighted with this good fortune, that they did
not stay for the races, but went home to tell the happy news,
leaving the boys to care for the cats, and enjoy the various matches
to come off that day.
"I'm so glad I tried to look pleasant when I was lying on the board
while Ralph did my head, for the pleasantness got into the clay
face, and that made the lady like it," said Jill, as she lay resting on
"I always thought it was a dear, bright little face, but now I love
and admire it more than ever," cried Merry, kissing it gratefully, as
she remembered the help and pleasure it had given Ralph.
Down the River
A fortnight later, the boys were picking apples one golden October
afternoon, and the girls were hurrying to finish their work, that
they might go and help the harvesters. It was six weeks now since
the new school began, and they had learned to like it very much,
though they found that it was not all play, by any means. But
lessons, exercise, and various sorts of housework made an
agreeable change, and they felt that they were learning things
which would be useful to them all their lives. They had been
making underclothes for themselves, and each had several neatly
finished garments cut, fitted, and sewed by herself, and trimmed
with the pretty tatting Jill made in such quantities while she lay on
Now they were completing new dressing sacks, and had enjoyed
this job very much, as each chose her own material, and suited her
own taste in the making. Jill's was white, with tiny scarlet leaves
all over it, trimmed with red braid and buttons so like
checkerberries she was tempted to eat them. Molly's was gay, with
bouquets of every sort of flower, scalloped all round, and adorned
with six buttons, each of a different color, which she thought the
last touch of elegance. Merry's, though the simplest, was the
daintiest of the three, being pale blue, trimmed with delicate
edging, and beautifully made.
Mrs. Minot had been reading from Miss Strickland's "Queens of
England" while the girls worked, and an illustrated Shakspeare lay
open on the table, as well as several fine photographs of historical
places for them to look at as they went along. The hour was over
now, the teacher gone, and the pupils setting the last stitches as
they talked over the lesson, which had interested them exceedingly.
"I really believe I have got Henry's six wives into my head right at
last. Two Annes, three Katherines, and one Jane. Now I've seen
where they lived and heard their stories, I quite feel as if I knew
them," said Merry, shaking the threads off her work before she
folded it up to carry home.
"'King Henry the Eighth to six spouses was wedded,
One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded,'
was all I knew about them before. Poor things, what a bad time
they did have," added Jill, patting down the red braid, which would
pucker a bit at the corners.
"Katherine Parr had the best of it, because she outlived the old
tyrant and so kept her head on," said Molly, winding the thread
round her last button, as if bound to fasten it on so firmly that
nothing should decapitate that.
"I used to think I'd like to be a queen or a great lady, and wear
velvet and jewels, and live in a palace, but now I don't care much
for that sort of splendor. I like to make things pretty at home, and
know that they all depend on me, and love me very much. Queens
are not happy, and I am," said Merry, pausing to look at Anne
Hathaway's cottage as she put up the picture, and to wonder if it
was very pleasant to have a famous man for one's husband.
"I guess your missionarying has done you good; mine has, and I'm
getting to have things my own way more and more every day. Miss
Bat is so amiable, I hardly know her, and father tells her to ask
Miss Molly when she goes to him for orders. Isn't that fun?"
laughed Molly, in high glee, at the agreeable change. "I like it ever
so much, but I don't want to stay so all my days. I mean to travel,
and just as soon as I can I shall take Boo and go all round the
world, and see everything," she added, waving her gay sack, as if it
were the flag she was about to nail to the masthead of her ship.
"Well, I should like to be famous in some way, and have people
admire me very much. I'd like to act, or dance, or sing, or be what I
heard the ladies at Pebbly Beach call a 'queen of society.' But I
don't expect to be anything, and I'm not going to worry I shall _not_
be a Lucinda, so I ought to be contented and happy all my life,"
said Jill, who was very ambitious in spite of the newly acquired
meekness, which was all the more becoming because her natural
liveliness often broke out like sunshine through a veil of light
If the three girls could have looked forward ten years they would
have been surprised to see how different a fate was theirs from the
one each had chosen, and how happy each was in the place she
was called to fill. Merry was not making the old farmhouse pretty,
but living in Italy, with a young sculptor for her husband, and
beauty such as she never dreamed of all about her. Molly was not
travelling round the world, but contentedly keeping house for her
father and still watching over Boo, who was becoming her pride
and joy as well as care. Neither was Jill a famous woman, but a
very happy and useful one, with the two mothers leaning on her as
they grew old, the young men better for her influence over them,
many friends to love and honor her, and a charming home, where
she was queen by right of her cheery spirit, grateful heart, and
unfailing devotion to those who had made her what she was.
If any curious reader, not content with this peep into futurity, asks,
"Did Molly and Jill ever marry?" we must reply, for the sake of
peace--Molly remained a merry spinster all her days, one of the
independent, brave, and busy creatures of whom there is such need
in the world to help take care of other peoples' wives and children,
and do the many useful jobs that the married folk have no time for.