Part 2 out of 2
THE PROUD LITTLE GRAIN OF WHEAT
There once was a little grain of wheat which was very proud indeed. The
first thing it remembered was being very much crowded and jostled by a
great many other grains of wheat, all living in the same sack in the
granary. It was quite dark in the sack, and no one could move about, and
so there was nothing to be done but to sit still and talk and think. The
proud little grain of wheat talked a great deal, but did not think quite
so much, while its next neighbour thought a great deal and only talked
when it was asked questions it could answer. It used to say that when it
thought a great deal it could remember things which it seemed to have
heard a long time ago.
"What is the use of our staying here so long doing nothing, and never
being seen by anybody?" the proud little grain once asked.
"I don't know," the learned grain replied. "I don't know the answer to
that. Ask me another."
"Why can't I sing like the birds that build their nests in the roof? I
should like to sing, instead of sitting here in the dark."
"Because you have no voice," said the learned grain.
This was a very good answer indeed.
"Why didn't someone give me a voice, then--why didn't they?" said the
proud little grain, getting very cross.
The learned grain thought for several minutes.
"There might be two answers to that," she said at last. "One might be
that nobody had a voice to spare, and the other might be that you have
nowhere to put one if it were given to you."
"Everybody is better off than I am," said the proud little grain. "The
birds can fly and sing, the children can play and shout. I am sure I can
get no rest for their shouting and playing. There are two little boys who
make enough noise to deafen the whole sackful of us."
"Ah! I know them," said the learned grain. "And it's true they are noisy.
Their names are Lionel and Vivian. There is a thin place in the side of
the sack, through which I can see them. I would rather stay where I am
than have to do all they do. They have long yellow hair, and when they
stand on their heads the straw sticks in it and they look very curious. I
heard a strange thing through listening to them the other day."
"What was it?" asked the proud grain.
"They were playing in the straw, and someone came in to them--it was a
lady who had brought them something on a plate. They began to dance and
shout: 'It's cake! It's cake! Nice little mamma for bringing us cake.'
And then they each sat down with a piece and began to take great bites
out of it. I shuddered to think of it afterward."
"Well, you know they are always asking questions, and they began to ask
questions of their mamma, who lay down in the straw near them. She seemed
to be used to it. These are the questions Vivian asked:
"'Who made the cake?'
"'Who made the cook?'
"'What did He make her for?'
"'Why didn't He make her white?'
"'Why didn't He make you black?'
"'Did He cut a hole in heaven and drop me through when He made me?'
"'Why didn't it hurt me when I tumbled such a long way?'
"She said she 'didn't know' to all but the two first, and then he
asked two more.
"'What is the cake made of?'
"'Flour, sugar, eggs and butter.'
"'What is flour made of?'
"It was the answer to that which made me shudder."
"What was it?" asked the proud grain.
"She said it was made of--wheat! I don't see the advantage of
"Was the cake rich?" asked the proud grain.
"Their mother said it was. She said, 'Don't eat it so fast--it is
"Ah!" said the proud grain. "I should like to be rich. It must be very
fine to be rich. If I am ever made into cake, I mean to be so rich that
no one will dare to eat me at all."
"Ah?" said the learned grain. "I don't think those boys would be afraid
to eat you, however rich you were. They are not afraid of richness."
"They'd be afraid of me before they had done with me," said the proud
grain. "I am not a common grain of wheat. Wait until I am made into cake.
But gracious me! there doesn't seem much prospect of it while we are shut
up here. How dark and stuffy it is, and how we are crowded, and what a
stupid lot the other grains are! I'm tired of it, I must say."
"We are all in the same sack," said the learned grain, very quietly.
It was a good many days after that, that something happened. Quite early
in the morning, a man and a boy came into the granary, and moved the sack
of wheat from its place, wakening all the grains from their last nap.
"What is the matter?" said the proud grain. "Who is daring to
"Hush!" whispered the learned grain, in the most solemn manner.
"Something is going to happen. Something like this happened to somebody
belonging to me long ago. I seem to remember it when I think very hard. I
seem to remember something about one of my family being sown."
"What is sown?" demanded the other grain.
"It is being thrown into the earth," began the learned grain.
Oh, what a passion the proud grain got into! "Into the earth?" she
shrieked out. "Into the common earth? The earth is nothing but dirt,
and I am _not_ a common grain of wheat. I won't be sown! I will _not_
be sown! How dare anyone sow me against my will! I would rather stay in
But just as she was saying it, she was thrown out with the learned grain
and some others into another dark place, and carried off by the farmer,
in spite of her temper; for the farmer could not hear her voice at all,
and wouldn't have minded if he had, because he knew she was only a grain
of wheat, and ought to be sown, so that some good might come of her.
Well, she was carried out to a large field in the pouch which the farmer
wore at his belt. The field had been ploughed, and there was a sweet
smell of fresh earth in the air; the sky was a deep, deep blue, but the
air was cool and the few leaves on the trees were brown and dry, and
looked as if they had been left over from last year. "Ah!" said the
learned grain. "It was just such a day as this when my grandfather, or my
father, or somebody else related to me, was sown. I think I remember that
it was called Early Spring."
"As for me," said the proud grain, fiercely, "I should like to see the
man who would dare to sow me!"
At that very moment, the farmer put his big, brown hand into the bag and
threw her, as she thought, at least half a mile from them.
He had not thrown her so far as that, however, and she landed safely in
the shadow of a clod of rich earth, which the sun had warmed through and
through. She was quite out of breath and very dizzy at first, but in a
few seconds she began to feel better and could not help looking around,
in spite of her anger, to see if there was anyone near to talk to. But
she saw no one, and so began to scold as usual.
"They not only sow me," she called out, "but they throw me all by
myself, where I can have no company at all. It is disgraceful."
Then she heard a voice from the other side of the clod. It was the
learned grain, who had fallen there when the farmer threw her out of
"Don't be angry," it said, "I am here. We are all right so far. Perhaps,
when they cover us with the earth, we shall be even nearer to each other
than we are now."
"Do you mean to say they will cover us with the earth?" asked the
"Yes," was the answer. "And there we shall lie in the dark, and the rain
will moisten us, and the sun will warm us, until we grow larger and
larger, and at last burst open!"
"Speak for yourself," said the proud grain; "I shall do no such thing!"
But it all happened just as the learned grain had said, which showed what
a wise grain it was, and how much it had found out just by thinking hard
and remembering all it could.
Before the day was over, they were covered snugly up with the soft,
fragrant, brown earth, and there they lay day after day.
One morning, when the proud grain wakened, it found itself wet through
and through with rain which had fallen in the night, and the next day
the sun shone down and warmed it so that it really began to be afraid
that it would be obliged to grow too large for its skin, which felt a
little tight for it already.
It said nothing of this to the learned grain, at first, because it was
determined not to burst if it could help it; but after the same thing had
happened a great many times, it found, one morning, that it really was
swelling, and it felt obliged to tell the learned grain about it.
"Well," it said, pettishly, "I suppose you will be glad to hear that you
were right, I _am_ going to burst. My skin is so tight now that it
doesn't fit me at all, and I know I can't stand another warm shower like
"Oh!" said the learned grain, in a quiet way (really learned people
always have a quiet way), "I knew I was right, or I shouldn't have said
so. I hope you don't find it very uncomfortable. I think I myself shall
burst by to-morrow."
"Of course I find it uncomfortable," said the proud grain. "Who wouldn't
find it uncomfortable, to be two or three sizes too small for one's self!
Pouf! Crack! There I go! I have split up all up my right side, and I must
say it's a relief."
"Crack! Pouf! so have I," said the learned grain. "Now we must begin to
push up through the earth. I am sure my relation did that."
"Well, I shouldn't mind getting out into the air. It would be a change
So each of them began to push her way through the earth as strongly as
she could, and, sure enough, it was not long before the proud grain
actually found herself out in the world again, breathing the sweet air,
under the blue sky, across which fleecy white clouds were drifting, and
swift-winged, happy birds darting.
"It really is a lovely day," were the first words the proud grain said.
It couldn't help it. The sunshine was so delightful, and the birds
chirped and twittered so merrily in the bare branches, and, more
wonderful than all, the great field was brown no longer, but was covered
with millions of little, fresh green blades, which trembled and bent
their frail bodies before the light wind.
"This _is_ an improvement," said the proud grain.
Then there was a little stir in the earth beside it, and up through the
brown mould came the learned grain, fresh, bright, green, like the rest.
"I told you I was not a common grain of wheat," said the proud one.
"You are not a grain of wheat at all now," said the learned one,
modestly. "You are a blade of wheat, and there are a great many others
"See how green I am!" said the proud blade.
"Yes, you are very green," said its companion. "You will not be so green
when you are older."
The proud grain, which must be called a blade now, had plenty of change
and company after this. It grew taller and taller every day, and made a
great many new acquaintances as the weather grew warmer. These were
little gold and green beetles living near it, who often passed it, and
now and then stopped to talk a little about their children and their
journeys under the soil. Birds dropped down from the sky sometimes to
gossip and twitter of the nests they were building in the apple-trees,
and the new songs they were learning to sing.
Once, on a very warm day, a great golden butterfly, floating by on his
large lovely wings, fluttered down softly and lit on the proud blade, who
felt so much prouder when he did it that she trembled for joy.
"He admires me more than all the rest in the field, you see," it said,
haughtily. "That is because I am so green."
"If I were you," said the learned blade, in its modest way, "I believe I
would not talk so much about being green. People will make such
ill-natured remarks when one speaks often of one's self."
"I am above such people," said the proud blade "I can find nothing more
interesting to talk of than myself."
As time went on, it was delighted to find that it grew taller than any
other blade in the field, and threw out other blades; and at last there
grew out at the top of its stalk ever so many plump, new little grains,
all fitting closely together, and wearing tight little green covers.
"Look at me!" it said then. "I am the queen of all the wheat. I
have a crown."
"No." said its learned companion. "You are now an ear of wheat."
And in a short time all the other stalks wore the same kind of crown, and
it found out that the learned blade was right, and that it was only an
ear, after all.
And now the weather had grown still warmer and the trees were covered
with leaves, and the birds sang and built their nests in them and laid
their little blue eggs, and in time, wonderful to relate, there came baby
birds, that were always opening their mouths for food, and crying "peep,
peep," to their fathers and mothers. There were more butterflies floating
about on their amber and purple wings, and the gold and green beetles
were so busy they had no time to talk.
"Well!" said the proud ear of wheat (you remember it was an ear by this
time) to its companion one day. "You see, you were right again. I am not
so green as I was. I am turning yellow--but yellow is the colour of gold,
and I don't object to looking like gold."
"You will soon be ripe," said its friend.
"And what will happen then?"
"The reaping-machine will come and cut you down, and other strange things
"There I make a stand," said the proud ear, "I will _not_ be cut down."
But it was just as the wise ear said it would be. Not long after a
reaping-machine was brought and driven back and forth in the fields, and
down went all the wheat ears before the great knives. But it did not hurt
the wheat, of course, and only the proud ear felt angry.
"I am the colour of gold," it said, "and yet they have dared to cut me
down. What will they do next, I wonder?"
What they did next was to bunch it up with other wheat and tie it
and stack it together, and then it was carried in a waggon and laid
in the barn.
Then there was a great bustle after a while. The farmer's wife and
daughters and her two servants began to work as hard as they could.
"The threshers are coming," they said, "and we must make plenty of things
for them to eat."
So they made pies and cakes and bread until their cupboards were full;
and surely enough the threshers did come with the threshing-machine,
which was painted red, and went "Puff! puff! puff! rattle! rattle!" all
the time. And the proud wheat was threshed out by it, and found itself in
grains again and very much out of breath.
"I look almost as I was at first," it said; "only there are so many of
me. I am grander than ever now. I was only one grain of wheat at first,
and now I am at least fifty."
When it was put into a sack, it managed to get all its grains together in
one place, so that it might feel as grand as possible. It was so proud
that it felt grand, however much it was knocked about.
It did not lie in the sack very long this time before something else
happened. One morning it heard the farmer's wife saying to the
"Take this yere sack of wheat to the mill, Jerry. I want to try it when I
make that thar cake for the boarders. Them two children from Washington
city are powerful hands for cake."
So Jerry lifted the sack up and threw it over his shoulder, and carried
it out into the spring-waggon.
"Now we are going to travel," said the proud wheat "Don't let us be
At that minute, there were heard two young voices, shouting:--
"Jerry, take us in the waggon! Let us go to mill, Jerry. We want to
go to mill."
And these were the very two boys who had played in the granary and made
so much noise the summer before. They had grown a little bigger, and
their yellow hair was longer, but they looked just as they used to, with
their strong little legs and big brown eyes, and their sailor hats set so
far back on their heads that it was a wonder they stayed on. And
gracious! how they shouted and ran.
"What does yer mar say?" asked Jerry.
"Says we can go!" shouted both at once, as if Jerry had been deaf, which
he wasn't at all--quite the contrary.
So Jerry, who was very good-natured, lifted them in, and cracked his
whip, and the horses started off. It was a long ride to the mill, but
Lionel and Vivian were not too tired to shout again when they reached it.
They shouted at sight of the creek and the big wheel turning round and
round slowly, with the water dashing and pouring and foaming over it.
"What turns the wheel?" asked Vivian.
"The water, honey," said Jerry.
"What turns the water?"
"Well now, honey," said Jerry, "you hev me thar. I don't know nuffin
'bout it. Lors-a-massy, what a boy you is fur axin dif'cult questions."
Then he carried the sack in to the miller, and said he would wait until
the wheat was ground.
"Ground!" said the proud wheat. "We are going to be ground. I hope it is
agreeable. Let us keep close together."
They did keep close together, but it wasn't very agreeable to be poured
into a hopper and then crushed into fine powder between two big stones.
"Makes nice flour," said the miller, rubbing it between his fingers.
"Flour!" said the wheat--which was wheat no longer. "Now I am flour, and
I am finer than ever. How white I am! I really would rather be white than
green or gold colour. I wonder where the learned grain is, and if it is
as fine and white as I am?"
But the learned grain and her family had been laid away in the granary
for seed wheat.
Before the waggon reached the house again, the two boys were fast asleep
in the bottom of it, and had to be helped out just as the sack was, and
The sack was taken into the kitchen at once and opened, and even in its
wheat days the flour had never been so proud as it was when it heard the
farmer's wife say--
"I'm going to make this into cake."
"Ah!" it said; "I thought so. Now I shall be rich, and admired by
The farmer's wife then took some of it out in a large white bowl, and
after that she busied herself beating eggs and sugar and butter all
together in another bowl: and after a while she took the flour and beat
it in also.
"Now I am in grand company," said the flour. "The eggs and butter are the
colour of gold, the sugar is like silver or diamonds. This is the very
society for me."
"The cake looks rich," said one of the daughters.
"It's rather too rich for them children," said her mother. "But Lawsey, I
dunno, neither. Nothin' don't hurt 'em. I reckon they could eat a panel
of rail fence and come to no harm."
"I'm rich," said the flour to itself. "That is just what I intended from
the first. I am rich and I am a cake."
Just then, a pair of big brown eyes came and peeped into it. They
belonged to a round little head with a mass of tangled curls all over
it--they belonged to Vivian.
"What's that?" he asked.
"Who made it?"
"I like you," said Vivian. "You're such a nice woman. Who's going to eat
any of it? Is Lionel?"
"I'm afraid it's too rich for boys," said the woman, but she laughed and
"No," said Vivian. "I'm afraid it isn't."
"I shall be much too rich," said the cake, angrily. "Boys, indeed. I was
made for something better than boys."
After that, it was poured into a cake-mould, and put into the oven,
where it had rather an unpleasant time of it. It was so hot in there
that if the farmer's wife had not watched it carefully, it would have
"But I am cake," it said, "and of the richest kind, so I can bear it,
even if it is uncomfortable."
When it was taken out, it really was cake, and it felt as if it was quite
satisfied. Everyone who came into the kitchen and saw it, said--
"Oh, what a nice cake! How well your new flour has done!"
But just once, while it was cooling, it had a curious, disagreeable
feeling. It found, all at once, that the two boys, Lionel and Vivian,
had come quietly into the kitchen and stood near the table, looking at
the cake with their great eyes wide open and their little red mouths
"Dear me," it said. "How nervous I feel--actually nervous. What great
eyes they have, and how they shine! and what are those sharp white
things in their mouths? I really don't like them to look at me in
that way. It seems like something personal. I wish the farmer's wife
Such a chill ran over it, that it was quite cool when the woman came in,
and she put it away in the cupboard on a plate.
But, that very afternoon, she took it out again and set it on the table
on a glass cake-stand. She put some leaves around it to make it look
nice, and it noticed there were a great many other things on the table,
and they all looked fresh and bright.
"This is all in my honour," it said. "They know I am rich."
Then several people came in and took chairs around the table.
"They all come to sit and look at me," said the vain cake. "I wish the
learned grain could see me now."
There was a little high-chair on each side of the table, and at first
these were empty, but in a few minutes the door opened and in came the
two little boys. They had pretty, clean dresses on, and their "bangs" and
curls were bright with being brushed.
"Even they have been dressed up to do me honour," thought the cake.
[ILLUSTRATION: "THERE'S THE CAKE," HE SAID.]
But, the next minute, it began to feel quite nervous again, Vivian's
chair was near the glass stand, and when he had climbed up and seated
himself, he put one elbow on the table and rested his fat chin on his fat
hand, and fixing his eyes on the cake, sat and stared at it in such an
unnaturally quiet manner for some seconds, that any cake might well have
"There's the cake," he said, at last, in such a deeply thoughtful voice
that the cake felt faint with anger.
Then a remarkable thing happened. Some one drew the stand toward them and
took the knife and cut out a large slice of the cake.
"Go away," said the cake, though no one heard it. "I am cake! I am rich!
I am not for boys! How dare you?"
Vivian stretched out his hand; he took the slice; he lifted it up, and
then the cake saw his red mouth open--yes, open wider than it could have
believed possible--wide enough to show two dreadful rows of little sharp
"Good gra--" it began.
But it never said "cious." Never at all. For in two minutes Vivian had
And there was an end of its airs and graces.
BEHIND THE WHITE BRICK
It began with Aunt Hetty's being out of temper, which, it must be
confessed, was nothing new. At its best, Aunt Hetty's temper was none of
the most charming, and this morning it was at its worst. She had awakened
to the consciousness of having a hard day's work before her, and she had
awakened late, and so everything had gone wrong from the first. There was
a sharp ring in her voice when she came to Jem's bedroom door and called
out, "Jemima, get up this minute!"
Jem knew what to expect when Aunt Hetty began a day by calling her
"Jemima." It was one of the poor child's grievances that she had been
given such an ugly name. In all the books she had read, and she had read
a great many, Jem never had met a heroine who was called Jemima. But it
had been her mother's favorite sister's name, and so it had fallen to her
lot. Her mother always called her "Jem," or "Mimi," which was much
prettier, and even Aunt Hetty only reserved Jemima for unpleasant state
It was a dreadful day to Jem. Her mother was not at home, and would not
be until night. She had been called away unexpectedly, and had been
obliged to leave Jem and the baby to Aunt Hetty's mercies.
So Jem found herself busy enough. Scarcely had she finished doing one
thing, when Aunt Hetty told her to begin another. She wiped dishes and
picked fruit and attended to the baby; and when baby had gone to sleep,
and everything else seemed disposed of, for a time, at least, she was so
tired that she was glad to sit down.
And then she thought of the book she had been reading the night before--a
certain delightful story book, about a little girl whose name was Flora,
and who was so happy and rich and pretty and good that Jem had likened
her to the little princesses one reads about, to whose christening feast
every fairy brings a gift.
"I shall have time to finish my chapter before dinner-time comes," said
Jem, and she sat down snugly in one corner of the wide, old fashioned
But she had not read more than two pages before something dreadful
happened. Aunt Hetty came into the room in a great hurry--in such a
hurry, indeed, that she caught her foot in the matting and fell, striking
her elbow sharply against a chair, which so upset her temper that the
moment she found herself on her feet she flew at Jem.
"What!" she said, snatching the book from her, "reading again, when I am
running all over the house for you?" And she flung the pretty little blue
covered volume into the fire.
Jem sprang to rescue it with a cry, but it was impossible to reach
it; it had fallen into a great hollow of red coal, and the blaze
caught it at once.
"You are a wicked woman!" cried Jem, in a dreadful passion, to Aunt
Hetty. "You are a wicked woman."
Then matters reached a climax. Aunt Hetty boxed her ears, pushed her back
on her little footstool, and walked out of the room.
Jem hid her face on her arms and cried as if her heart would break. She
cried until her eyes were heavy, and she thought she would be obliged to
go to sleep. But just as she was thinking of going to sleep, something
fell down the chimney and made her look up. It was a piece of mortar, and
it brought a good deal of soot with it. She bent forward and looked up to
see where it had come from. The chimney was so very wide that this was
easy enough. She could see where the mortar had fallen from the side and
left a white patch.
"How white it looks against the black!" said Jem; "it is like a white
brick among the black ones. What a queer place a chimney is! I can see a
bit of the blue sky, I think."
And then a funny thought came into her fanciful little head. What a many
things were burned in the big fireplace and vanished in smoke or tinder
up the chimney! Where did everything go? There was Flora, for
instance--Flora who was represented on the frontispiece--with lovely,
soft, flowing hair, and a little fringe on her pretty round forehead,
crowned with a circlet of daisies, and a laugh in her wide-awake round
eyes. Where was she by this time? Certainly there was nothing left of her
in the fire. Jem almost began to cry again at the thought.
"It was too bad," she said. "She was so pretty and funny, and I did
like her so."
I daresay it scarcely will be credited by unbelieving people when I tell
them what happened next, it was such a very singular thing, indeed.
Jem felt herself gradually lifted off her little footstool.
"Oh!" she said, timidly, "I feel very light." She did feel light, indeed.
She felt so light that she was sure she was rising gently in the air.
"Oh," she said again, "how--how very light I feel! Oh, dear, I'm going
up the chimney!"
It was rather strange that she never thought of calling for help, but she
did not. She was not easily frightened; and now she was only wonderfully
astonished, as she remembered afterwards. She shut her eyes tight and
gave a little gasp.
"I've heard Aunt Hetty talk about the draught drawing things up the
chimney, but I never knew it was as strong as this," she said.
She went up, up, up, quietly and steadily, and without any uncomfortable
feeling at all; and then all at once she stopped, feeling that her feet
rested against something solid. She opened her eyes and looked about her,
and there she was, standing right opposite the white brick, her feet on a
"Well," she said, "this is funny."
But the next thing that happened was funnier still. She found that,
without thinking what she was doing, she was knocking on the white brick
with her knackles, as if it was a door and she expected somebody to open
it. The next minute she heard footsteps, and then a sound, as if some one
was drawing back a little bolt.
"It is a door," said Jem, "and somebody is going to open it."
The white brick moved a little, and some more mortar and soot fell;
then the brick moved a little more, and then it slid aside and left an
"It's a room!" cried Jem, "There's a room behind it!"
And so there was, and before the open space stood a pretty little girl,
with long lovely hair and a fringe on her forehead. Jem clasped her hands
in amazement. It was Flora herself, as she looked in the picture, and
Flora stood laughing and nodding.
"Come in," she said. "I thought it was you."
"But how can I come in through such a little place?" asked Jem.
"Oh, that is easy enough," said Flora. "Here, give me your hand."
Jem did as she told her, and found that it was easy enough. In an instant
she had passed through the opening, the white brick had gone back to its
place, and she was standing by Flora's side in a large room--the nicest
room she had ever seen. It was big and lofty and light, and there were
all kinds of delightful things in it--books and flowers and playthings
and pictures, and in one corner a great cage full of lovebirds.
"Have I ever seen it before?" asked Jem, glancing slowly round.
"Yes," said Flora; "you saw it last night--in your mind. Don't you
Jem shook her head.
"I feel as if I did, but--"
"Why," said Flora, laughing, "it's my room, the one you read about
"So it is," said Jem. "But how did you come here?"
"I can't tell you that; I myself don't know. But I am here, and
so"--rather mysteriously--"are a great many other things."
"Are they?" said Jem, very much interested. "What things? Burned things?
I was just wondering--"
"Not only burned things," said Flora, nodding. "Just come with me and
I'll show you something."
She led the way out of the room and down a little passage with several
doors in each side of it, and she opened one door and showed Jem what was
on the other side of it. That was a room, too, and this time it was funny
as well as pretty. Both floor and walls were padded with rose color, and
the floor was strewn with toys. There were big soft balls, rattles,
horses, woolly dogs, and a doll or so; there was one low cushioned chair
and a low table.
"You can come in," said a shrill little voice behind the door, "only mind
you don't tread on things."
"What a funny little voice!" said Jem, but she had no sooner said it than
she jumped back.
The owner of the voice, who had just come forward, was no other
"Why," exclaimed Jem, beginning to feel frightened, "I left you fast
asleep in your crib."
"Did you?" said Baby, somewhat scornfully. "That's just the way with you
grown-up people. You think you know everything, and yet you haven't
discretion enough to know when a pin is sticking into one. You'd know
soon enough if you had one sticking into your own back."
"But I'm not grown up," stammered Jem; "and when you are at home you can
neither walk nor talk. You're not six months old."
"Well, miss," retorted Baby, whose wrongs seemed to have soured her
disposition somewhat, "you have no need to throw that in my teeth; you
were not six months old, either, when you were my age."
Jem could not help laughing.
"You haven't got any teeth," she said.
"Haven't I?" said Baby, and she displayed two beautiful rows with some
haughtiness of manner. "When I am up here," she said, "I am supplied
with the modern conveniences, and that's why I never complain. Do I
ever cry when I am asleep? It's not falling asleep I object to, it's
"Wait a minute," said Jem. "Are you asleep now?"
"I'm what you call asleep. I can only come here when I'm what you call
asleep. Asleep, indeed! It's no wonder we always cry when we have to
"But we don't mean to be unkind to you," protested Jem, meekly.
She could not help thinking Baby was very severe.
"Don't mean!" said Baby. "Well, why don't you think more, then? How would
you like to have all the nice things snatched away from you, and all the
old rubbish packed off on you, as if you hadn't any sense? How would you
like to have to sit and stare at things you wanted, and not to be able to
reach them, or, if you did reach them, have them fall out of your hand,
and roll away in the most unfeeling manner? And then be scolded and
called 'cross!' It's no wonder we are bald. You'd be bald yourself. It's
trouble and worry that keep us bald until we can begin to take care of
ourselves; I had more hair than this at first, but it fell off, as well
it might. No philosopher ever thought of that, I suppose!"
"Well," said Jem, in despair, "I hope you enjoy yourself when you
"Yes, I do," answered Baby. "That's one comfort. There is nothing to
knock my head against, and things have patent stoppers on them, so that
they can't roll away, and everything is soft and easy to pick up."
There was a slight pause after this, and Baby seemed to cool down.
"I suppose you would like me to show you round?" she said.
"Not if you have any objection," replied Jem, who was rather subdued.
"I would as soon do it as not," said Baby. "You are not as bad as some
people, though you do get my clothes twisted when you hold me."
Upon the whole, she seemed rather proud of her position. It was evident
she quite regarded herself as hostess. She held her small bald head very
high indeed, as she trotted on before them. She stopped at the first door
she came to, and knocked three times. She was obliged to stand upon
tiptoe to reach the knocker.
"He's sure to be at home at this time of year," she remarked. "This is
the busy season."
"Who's 'he'?" inquired Jem.
But Flora only laughed at Miss Baby's consequential air.
"S.C., to be sure," was the answer, as the young lady pointed to the
door-plate, upon which Jem noticed, for the first time, "S.C." in very
The door opened, apparently without assistance, and they entered the
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Jem, the next minute. "Good_ness_ gracious!"
She might well be astonished. It was such a long room that she could not
see to the end of it, and it was piled up from floor to ceiling with toys
of every description, and there was such bustle and buzzing in it that it
was quite confusing. The bustle and buzzing arose from a very curious
cause, too,--it was the bustle and buzz of hundreds of tiny men and women
who were working at little tables no higher than mushrooms,--the pretty
tiny women cutting out and sewing, the pretty tiny men sawing and
hammering and all talking at once. The principal person in the place
escaped Jem's notice at first; but it was not long before she saw him,--a
little old gentleman, with a rosy face and sparkling eyes, sitting at a
desk, and writing in a book almost as big as himself. He was so busy that
he was quite excited, and had been obliged to throw his white fur coat
and cap aside, and he was at work in his red waistcoat.
"Look here, if you please," piped Baby, "I have brought some one
to see you."
When he turned round, Jem recognized him at once.
"Eh! Eh!" he said. "What! What! Who's this, Tootsicums?"
Baby's manner became very acid indeed.
"I shouldn't have thought you would have said that, Mr. Claus," she
remarked. "I can't help myself down below, but I generally have my
rights respected up here. I should like to know what sane godfather or
godmother would give one the name of 'Tootsicums' in one's baptism. They
are bad enough, I must say; but I never heard of any of them calling a
"Come, come!" said S.C., chuckling comfortably and rubbing his hands.
"Don't be too dignified,--it's a bad thing. And don't be too fond of
flourishing your rights in people's faces,--that's the worst of all,
Miss Midget. Folks who make such a fuss about their rights turn them into
Then he turned suddenly to Jem.
"You are the little girl from down below," he said.
"Yes, sir," answered Jem. "I'm Jem, and this is my friend Flora,--out of
the blue book."
"I'm happy to make her acquaintance," said S.C., "and I'm happy to
make yours. You are a nice child, though a trifle peppery. I'm very
glad to see you."
"I'm very glad indeed to see you, sir," said Jem. "I wasn't quite sure--"
But there she stopped, feeling that it would be scarcely polite to tell
him that she had begun of late years to lose faith in him.
But S.C. only chuckled more comfortably than ever and rubbed his
[Illustration: "Eh! Eh!" he said. "What! What! Who's this, Tootsicums?"]
"Ho, ho!" he said. "You know who I am, then?"
Jem hesitated a moment, wondering whether it would not be taking a
liberty to mention his name without putting "Mr." before it: then she
remembered what Baby had called him.
"Baby called you 'Mr. Claus,' sir," she replied; "and I have seen
pictures of you."
"To be sure," said S.C. "S. Claus, Esquire, of Chimneyland. How do
you like me?"
"Very much," answered Jem; "very much, indeed, sir."
"Glad of it! Glad of it! But what was it you were going to say you were
not quite sure of?"
Jem blushed a little.
"I was not quite sure that--that you were true, sir. At least I have not
been quite sure since I have been older."
S.C. rubbed the bald part of his head and gave a little sigh.
"I hope I have not hurt your feelings, sir," faltered Jem, who was a very
kind hearted little soul.
"Well, no," said S.C. "Not exactly. And it is not your fault either. It
is natural, I suppose; at any rate, it is the way of the world. People
lose their belief in a great many things as they grow older; but that
does not make the things not true, thank goodness! and their faith often
comes back after a while. But, bless me!" he added, briskly, "I'm
moralizing, and who thanks a man for doing that? Suppose--"
"Black eyes or blue, sir?" said a tiny voice close to them.
Jem and Flora turned round, and saw it was one of the small workers who
was asking the question.
"Whom for?" inquired S.C.
"Little girl in the red brick house at the corner," said the workwoman;
"name of Birdie."
"Excuse me a moment," said S.C. to the children, and he turned to the big
book and began to run his fingers down the pages in a business-like
manner. "Ah! here she is!" he exclaimed at last. "Blue eyes, if you
please, Thistle, and golden hair. And let it be a big one. She takes good
care of them."
"Yes, sir," said Thistle; "I am personally acquainted with several dolls
in her family. I go to parties in her dolls' house sometimes when she is
fast asleep at night, and they all speak very highly of her. She is most
attentive to them when they are ill. In fact, her pet doll is a cripple,
with a stiff leg."
She ran back to her work and S.C. finished his sentence.
"Suppose I show you my establishment," he said. "Come with me."
It really would be quite impossible to describe the wonderful things he
showed them. Jem's head was quite in a whirl before she had seen one-half
of them, and even Baby condescended to become excited.
"There must be a great many children in the world, Mr. Claus,"
"Yes, yes, millions of 'em; bless 'em," said S.C., growing rosier with
delight at the very thought. "We never run out of them, that's one
comfort. There's a large and varied assortment always on hand. Fresh ones
every year, too, so that when one grows too old there is a new one ready.
I have a place like this in every twelfth chimney. Now it's boys, now
it's girls, always one or t'other; and there's no end of playthings for
them, too, I'm glad to say. For girls, the great thing seems to be dolls.
Blitzen! what comfort they _do_ take in dolls! but the boys are for
horses and racket."
They were standing near a table where a worker was just putting the
finishing touch to the dress of a large wax doll, and just at that
moment, to Jem's surprise, she set it on the floor, upon its feet,
"Thank you," said the doll, politely.
Jem quite jumped.
"You can join the rest now and introduce yourself," said the worker.
The doll looked over her shoulder at her train.
"It hangs very nicely," she said. "I hope it's the latest fashion."
"Mine never talked like that," said Flora. "My best one could only say
'Mamma,' and it said it very badly, too."
"She was foolish for saying it at all," remarked the doll, haughtily. "We
don't talk and walk before ordinary people; we keep our accomplishments
for our own amusement, and for the amusement of our friends. If you
should chance to get up in the middle of the night, some time, or should
run into the room suddenly some day, after you have left it, you might
hear--but what is the use of talking to human beings?"
"You know a great deal, considering you are only just finished," snapped
Baby, who really was a Tartar.
"I was FINISHED," retorted the doll "I did not begin life as a baby!"
"Pooh!" said Baby. "We improve as we get older."
"I hope so, indeed," answered the doll. "There is plenty of room for
improvement." And she walked away in great state.
S.C. looked at Baby and then shook his head. "I shall not have to take
very much care of you," he said, absent-mindedly. "You are able to take
pretty good care of yourself."
"I hope I am," said Baby, tossing her head.
S.C. gave his head another shake.
"Don't take too good care of yourself," he said. "That's a bad
He showed them the rest of his wonders, and then went with them to the
door to bid them good-bye.
"I am sure we are very much obliged to you, Mr. Claus," said Jem,
gratefully. "I shall never again think you are not true, sir".
S.C. patted her shoulder quite affectionately.
"That's right," he said. "Believe in things just as long as you can,
my dear. Good-bye until Christmas Eve. I shall see you then, if you
don't see me."
He must have taken quite a fancy to Jem, for he stood looking at her, and
seemed very reluctant to close the door, and even after he had closed it,
and they had turned away, he opened it a little again to call to her.
"Believe in things as long as you can, my dear."
"How kind he is!" exclaimed Jem full of pleasure.
Baby shrugged her shoulders.
"Well enough in his way," she said, "but rather inclined to prose and be
Jem looked at her, feeling rather frightened, but she said nothing.
Baby showed very little interest in the next room she took them to.
"I don't care about this place," she said, as she threw open the door.
"It has nothing but old things in it. It is the Nobody-knows-where room."
She had scarcely finished speaking before Jem made a little spring and
picked something up.
"Here's my old strawberry pincushion!" she cried out. And then, with
another jump and another dash at two or three other things, "And here's
my old fairy-book! And here's my little locket I lost last summer! How
did they come here?"
"They went Nobody-knows-where," said Baby.
"And this is it."
"But cannot I have them again?" asked Jem.
"No," answered Baby. "Things that go to Nobody-knows-where stay there."
"Oh!" sighed Jem, "I am so sorry."
"They are only old things," said Baby.
"But I like my old things," said Jem. "I love them. And there is mother's
needle case. I wish I might take that. Her dead little sister gave it to
her, and she was so sorry when she lost it."
"People ought to take better care of their things," remarked Baby.
Jem would have liked to stay in this room and wander about among her old
favorites for a long time, but Baby was in a hurry.
"You'd better come away," she said. "Suppose I was to have to fall awake
and leave you?"
The next place they went into was the most wonderful of all.
"This is the Wish room," said Baby. "Your wishes come here--yours
and mother's, and Aunt Hetty's and father's and mine. When did you
Each article was placed under a glass shade, and labelled with the words
and name of the wishers. Some of them were beautiful, indeed; but the
tall shade Baby nodded at when she asked her question was truly
alarming, and caused Jem a dreadful pang of remorse. Underneath it sat
Aunt Hetty, with her mouth stitched up so that she could not speak a
word, and beneath the stand was a label bearing these words, in large
"I wish Aunt Hetty's mouth was sewed up, Jem."
"Oh, dear!" cried Jem, in great distress. "How it must have hurt her!
How unkind of me to say it! I wish I hadn't wished it. I wish it would
She had no sooner said it than her wish was gratified. The old label
disappeared and a new one showed itself, and there sat Aunt Hetty,
looking herself again, and even smiling.
Jem was grateful beyond measure, but Baby seemed to consider her
"It served her right," she said.
"But when, after looking at the wishes at that end of the room, they went
to the other end, her turn came. In one corner stood a shade with a baby
under it, and the baby was Miss Baby herself, but looking as she very
rarely looked; in fact, it was the brightest, best tempered baby one
"I wish I had a better tempered baby. Mother," was written on the label.
Baby became quite red in the face with anger and confusion.
"That wasn't here the last time I came," she said. "And it is right down
mean in mother!"
This was more than Jem could bear.
"It wasn't mean," she said. "She couldn't help it. You know you are a
cross baby--everybody says so."
Baby turned two shades redder.
"Mind your own business," she retorted. "It was mean; and as to that
silly little thing being better than I am," turning up her small nose,
which was quite turned up enough by Nature--"I must say I don't see
anything so very grand about her. So, there!"
She scarcely condescended to speak to them while they remained in the
Wish room, and when they left it, and went to the last door in the
passage, she quite scowled at it.
"I don't know whether I shall open it at all," she said.
"Why not?" asked Flora. "You might as well."
"It is the Lost pin room," she said. "I hate pins."
She threw the door open with a bang, and then stood and shook her little
fist viciously. The room was full of pins, stacked solidly together.
There were hundreds of them--thousands--millions, it seemed.
"I'm glad they _are_ lost!" she said. "I wish there were more of
"I didn't know there were so many pins in the world," said Jem.
"Pooh!" said Baby. "Those are only the lost ones that have belonged to
After this they went back to Flora's room and sat down, while Flora told
Jem the rest of her story.
"Oh!" sighed Jem, when she came to the end. "How delightful it is to be
here! Can I never come again?"
"In one way you can," said Flora. "When you want to come, just sit down
and be as quiet as possible, and shut your eyes and think very hard
about it. You can see everything you have seen to-day, if you try."
"Then I shall be sure to try," Jem answered. She was going to ask some
other question, but Baby stopped her.
"Oh! I'm falling awake," she whimpered, crossly, rubbing her eyes. "I'm
falling awake again."
And then, suddenly, a very strange feeling came over Jem. Flora and the
pretty room seemed to fade away, and, without being able to account for
it at all, she found herself sitting on her little stool again, with a
beautiful scarlet and gold book on her knee, and her mother standing by
laughing at her amazed face. As to Miss Baby, she was crying as hard as
she could in her crib.
"Mother!" Jem cried out, "have you really come home so early as this,
and--and," rubbing her eyes in great amazement, "how did I come down?"
"Don't I look as if I was real?" said her mother, laughing and kissing
her. "And doesn't your present look real? I don't know how you came down,
I'm sure. Where have you been?"
Jem shook her head very mysteriously. She saw that her mother fancied she
had been asleep, but she herself knew better.
"I know you wouldn't believe it was true if I told you," she said;
"I have been BEHIND THE WHITE BRICK."