Part 2 out of 3
never lost a day. She always carried the prettiest flowers she could
find, and if any one gave her a specially nice peach or a bunch of
grapes, she saved it for Mrs. Spenser.
Aunt Izzie was much worried at all this. But Dr. Carr would not
interfere. He said it was a case where grown people could do nothing,
and if Katy was a comfort to the poor lady he was glad. Katy was glad
too, and the visits did her as much good as they did Mrs. Spenser, for
the intense pity she felt for the sick woman made her gentle and patient
as she had never been before.
One day she stopped, as usual, on her way home from school. She tried
the side-door--it was locked; the back-door, it was locked too. All the
blinds were shut tight. This was very puzzling.
As she stood in the yard a woman put her head out of the window of
the next house. "It's no use knocking," she said, "all the folks have
"Gone away where?" asked Katy.
"Nobody knows," said the woman; "the gentleman came back in the middle
of the night, and this morning, before light, he had a wagon at the
door, and just put in the trunks and the sick lady, and drove off.
There's been more than one a-knocking besides you, since then. But Mr.
Pudgett, he's got the key, and nobody can get in without goin' to him."
It was too true. Mrs. Spenser was gone, and Katy never saw her again. In
a few days it came out that Mr. Spenser was a very bad man, and had been
making false money--_counterfeiting_, as grown people call it. The
police were searching for him to put him in jail, and that was the
reason he had come back in such a hurry and carried off his poor sick
wife. Aunt Izzie cried with mortification, when she heard this. She said
she thought it was a disgrace that Katy should have been visiting in a
counterfeiter's family. But Dr. Carr only laughed. He told Aunt Izzie
that he didn't think that kind of crime was catching, and as for Mrs.
Spenser, she was much to be pitied. But Aunt Izzie could not get over
her vexation, and every now and then, when she was vexed, she would
refer to the affair, though this all happened so long ago that most
people had forgotten all about it, and Philly and John had stopped
playing at "Putting Mr. Spenser in Jail," which for a long time was one
of their favorite games.
Katy always felt badly when Aunt Izzie spoke unkindly of her poor sick
friend. She had tears in her eyes now, as she walked to the gate, and
looked so very sober, that Imogen Clark, who stood there waiting,
clasped her hands and said:
"Ah, I see! Your aristocratic Aunt refuses."
Imogen's real name was Elizabeth. She was rather a pretty girl, with a
screwed-up, sentimental mouth, shiny brown hair, and a little round curl
on each of her cheeks. These curls must have been fastened on with glue
or tin tacks, one would think, for they never moved, however much she
laughed or shook her head. Imogen was a bright girl, naturally, but she
had read so many novels that her brain was completely turned. It was
partly this which made her so attractive to Katy, who adored stories,
and thought Imogen was a real heroine of romance.
"Oh no, she doesn't," she replied, hardly able to keep from laughing, at
the idea of Aunt Izzie's being called an "aristocratic relative"--"she
says she shall be my hap--" But here Katy's conscience gave a prick, and
the sentence ended in "um, um, um--" "So you'll come, won't you,
darling? I am so glad!"
"And I!" said Imogen, turning up her eyes theatrically.
From this time on till the end of the week, the children talked of
nothing but Imogen's visit, and the nice time they were going to have.
Before breakfast on Saturday morning, Katy and Clover were at work
building a beautiful bower of asparagus boughs under the trees. All the
playthings were set out in order. Debby baked them some cinnamon cakes,
the kitten had a pink ribbon tied round her neck, and the dolls,
including "Pikery," were arrayed in their best clothes.
About half-past ten Imogen arrived. She was dressed in a light-blue
barege, with low neck and short sleeves, and wore coral beads in her
hair, white satin slippers, and a pair of yellow gloves. The gloves and
slippers were quite dirty, and the barege was old and darned; but the
general effect was so very gorgeous, that the children, who were dressed
for play, in gingham frocks and white aprons, were quite dazzled at the
appearance of their guest.
"Oh, Imogen, you look just like a young lady in a story!" said simple
Katy; whereupon Imogen tossed her head and rustled her skirts about more
Somehow, with these fine clothes, Imogen seemed to have put on a fine
manner, quite different from the one she used every day. You know some
people always do, when they go out visiting. You would almost have
supposed that this was a different Imogen, who was kept in a box most of
the time, and taken out for Sundays and grand occasions. She swam about,
and diddled, and lisped, and looked at herself in the glass, and was
generally grown-up and airy. When Aunt Izzie spoke to her, she fluttered
and behaved so queerly, that Clover almost laughed; and even Katy, who
could see nothing wrong in people she loved, was glad to carry her away
to the playroom.
"Come out to the bower," she said, putting her arm round the blue
"A bower!" cried Imogen. "How sweet!" But when they reached the
asparagus boughs her face fell. "Why it hasn't any roof, or pinnacles,
or any fountain!" she said.
"Why no, of course not," said Clover, staring, "we made it ourselves."
"Oh!" said Imogen. She was evidently disappointed. Katy and Clover felt
mortified; but as their visitor did not care for the bower, they tried
to think of something else.
"Let us go to the Loft," they said.
So they all crossed the yard together. Imogen picked her way daintily
in the white satin slippers, but when she saw the spiked post, she
gave a scream.
"Oh, not up there, darling, not up there!". she cried; "never, never!"
"Oh, do try! It's just as easy as can be," pleaded Katy, going up and
down half a dozen times in succession to show how easy it was. But
Imogen wouldn't be persuaded.
"Do not ask me," she said affectedly; "my nerves would never stand such
a thing! And besides--my dress!"
"What made you wear it?" said Philly, who was a plain-spoken child, and
given to questions. While John whispered to Dorry, "That's a real stupid
girl. Let's go off somewhere and play by ourselves."
So, one by one, the small fry crept away, leaving Katy and Clover to
entertain the visitor by themselves. They tried dolls, but Imogen did
not care for dolls. Then they proposed to sit down in the shade, and cap
verses, a game they all liked. But Imogen said that though she adored
poetry, she never could remember any. So it ended in their going to the
orchard, where Imogen ate a great many plums and early apples, and
really seemed to enjoy herself. But when she could eat no more, a
dreadful dulness fell over the party. At last Imogen said:
"Don't you ever sit in the drawing-room?"
"The what?" asked Clover.
"The drawing-room," repeated Imogen.
"Oh, she means the parlor!" cried Katy. "No, we don't sit there except
when Aunt Izzie has company to tea. It is all dark and poky, you know.
Beside, it's so much pleasanter to be out-doors. Don't you think so?"
"Yes, sometimes," replied Imogen, doubtfully, "but I think it would be
pleasant to go in and sit there for a while, now. My head aches
dreadfully, being out here in this horrid sun."
Katy was at her wit's end to know what to do. They scarcely ever went
into the parlor, which Aunt Izzie regarded as a sort of sacred place.
She kept cotton petticoats over all the chairs for fear of dust, and
never opened the blinds for fear of flies. The idea of children with
dusty boots going in there to sit! On the other hand, Katy's natural
politeness made it hard to refuse a visitor anything she asked for. And
beside, it was dreadful to think that Imogen might go away and report
"Katy Carr isn't allowed to sit in the best room, even when she has
company!" With a quaking heart she led the way to the parlor. She dared
not open the blinds, so the room looked very dark. She could just see
Imogen's figure as she sat on the sofa, and Clover twirling uneasily
about on the piano-stool. All the time she kept listening to hear if
Aunt Izzie were not coming, and altogether the parlor was a dismal place
to her; not half so pleasant as the asparagus bower, where they felt
But Imogen, who, for the first time, seemed comfortable, began to talk.
Her talk was about herself. Such stories she told about the things
which had happened to her! All the young ladies in The Ledger put
together, never had stranger adventures. Gradually, Katy and Clover got
so interested that they left their seats and crouched down close to the
sofa, listening with open mouths to these stories. Katy forgot to
listen for Aunt Izzie. The parlor door swung open, but she did not
notice it. She did not even hear the front door shut, when Papa came
home to dinner.
Dr. Carr, stopping in the hall to glance over his newspaper, heard the
high-pitched voice running on in the parlor. At first he hardly
listened; then these words caught his ear:
"Oh, it was lovely, girls, perfectly delicious! I suppose I did look
well, for I was all in white, with my hair let down, and just one rose,
you know, here on top. And he leaned over me, and said in a low, deep
tone, 'Lady, I am a Brigand, but I feel the enchanting power of your
beauty. You are free!'"
Dr. Carr pushed the door open a little farther. Nothing was to be seen
but some indistinct figures, but he heard Katy's voice in an eager tone:
"Oh, _do_ go on. What happened next?"
"Who on earth have the children got in the parlor?" he asked Aunt Izzie,
whom he found in the dining-room.
"The parlor!" cried Miss Izzie, wrathfully, "why, what are they there
for?" Then going to the door, she called out, "Children, what are you
doing in the parlor? Come out right away. I thought you were playing
"Imogen had a head-ache," faltered Katy. The three girls came out into
the hall; Clover and Katy looking scared, and even the Enchanter of the
Brigand quite crest-fallen.
"Oh," said Aunt Izzie, grimly, "I am sorry to hear that. Probably you
are bilious. Would you like some camphor or anything?"
"No, thank you," replied Imogen, meekly. But afterwards she
whispered to Katy:
"Your aunt isn't very nice, I think. She's just like Jackima, that
horrid old woman I told you about, who lived in the Brigand's Cave and
did the cooking.
"I don't think you're a bit polite to tell me so," retorted Katy, very
angry at this speech.
"Oh, never mind, dear, don't take it to heart!" replied Imogen, sweetly.
"We can't help having relations that ain't nice, you know."
The visit was evidently not a success. Papa was very civil to Imogen at
dinner, but he watched her closely, and Katy saw a comical twinkle in
his eye, which she did not like. Papa had very droll eyes. They saw
everything, and sometimes they seemed to talk almost as distinctly as
his tongue. Katy began to feel low-spirited. She confessed afterward
that she should never have got through the afternoon if she hadn't run
up stairs two or three times, and comforted herself by reading a little
"Aren't you glad she's gone?" whispered Clover, as they stood at the
gate together watching Imogen walk down the street.
"Oh, Clover! how can you?" said Katy But she gave Clover a great hug,
and I think in her heart she _was_ glad.
"Katy," said Papa, next day, "you came into the room then, exactly like
your new friend Miss Clark."
"How? I don't know what you mean," answered Katy, blushing deeply.
"_So_," said Dr. Carr; and he got up, raising his shoulders and squaring
his elbows, and took a few mincing steps across the room. Katy couldn't
help laughing, it was so funny, and so like Imogen. Then Papa sat down
again and drew her close to him.
"My dear," he said, "you're an affectionate child, and I'm glad of
it. But there is such a thing as throwing away one's affection. I
didn't fancy that little girl at all yesterday. What makes you like
her so much?"
"I didn't like her so much, yesterday," admitted Katy, reluctantly.
"She's a great deal nicer than that at school, sometimes."
"I'm glad to hear it," said her father. "For I should be sorry to think
that you really admired such silly manners. And what was that nonsense I
heard her telling you about Brigands?"
"It really hap--" began Katy.--Then she caught Papa's eye, and bit her
lip, for he looked very quizzical. "Well," she went on, laughing, "I
suppose it didn't really all happen;--but it was ever so funny, Papa,
even if it was a make-up. And Imogen's just as good-natured as can be.
All the girls like her."
"Make-ups are all very well," said Papa, "as long as people don't try to
make you believe they are true. When they do that, it seems to me it
comes too near the edge of falsehood to be very safe or pleasant. If I
were you, Katy, I'd be a little shy of swearing eternal friendship for
Miss Clark. She may be good-natured, as you say, but I think two or
three years hence she won't seem so nice to you as she does now. Give me
a kiss, Chick, and run away, for there's Alexander with the buggy."
COUSIN HELEN'S VISIT
A little knot of the school-girls were walking home together one
afternoon in July. As they neared Dr. Carr's gate, Maria Fiske
exclaimed, at the sight of a pretty bunch of flowers lying in the middle
of the sidewalk:
"Oh my!" she cried, "see what somebody's dropped! I'm going to have it."
She stooped to pick it up. But, just as her fingers touched the stems,
the nosegay, as if bewitched, began to move. Maria made a bewildered
clutch. The nosegay moved faster, and at last vanished under the gate,
while a giggle sounded from the other side of the hedge.
"Did you see that?" shrieked Maria; "those flowers ran away of
"Nonsense," said Katy, "it's those absurd children." Then, opening the
gate, she called: "John! Dorry! come out and show yourselves." But
nobody replied, and no one could be seen. The nosegay lay on the path,
however, and picking it up, Katy exhibited to the girls a long end of
black thread, tied to the stems.
"That's a very favorite trick of Johnnie's," she said: "she and Dorry
are always tying up flowers, and putting them out on the walk to tease
people. Here, Maria, take 'em if you like. Though I don't think John's
taste in bouquets is very good."
"Isn't it splendid to have vacation come?" said one of the bigger girls.
"What are you all going to do? We're going to the seaside."
"Pa says he'll take Susie and me to Niagara," said Maria.
"I'm going to make my aunt a visit," said Alice Blair. "She lives in a
real lovely place in the country, and there's a pond there; and Tom
(that's my cousin) says he'll teach me to row. What are you going to
"Oh, I don't know; play round and have splendid times," replied Katy,
throwing her bag of books into the air, and catching it again. But the
other girls looked as if they didn't think this good fun at all, and as
if they were sorry for her; and Katy felt suddenly that her vacation
wasn't going to be so pleasant as that of the rest.
"I wish Papa _would_ take us somewhere," she said to Clover, as they
walked up the gravel path. "All the other girls' Papas do."
"He's too busy," replied Clover. "Beside, I don't think any of the rest
of the girls have half such good times as we. Ellen Robbins says she'd
give a million of dollars for such nice brothers and sisters as ours to
play with. And, you know, Maria and Susie have _awful_ times at home,
though they do go to places. Mrs. Fiske is so particular. She always
says 'Don't,' and they haven't got any yard to their house, or anything.
I wouldn't change."
"Nor I," said Katy, cheering up at these words of wisdom. "Oh, isn't it
lovely to think there won't be any school to-morrow? Vacations are just
splendid!" and she gave her bag another toss. It fell to the ground
with a crash.
"There, you've cracked your slate," said Clover.
"No matter, I sha'n't want it again for eight weeks," replied Katy,
comfortably, as they ran up the steps.
They burst open the front door and raced up stairs, crying "Hurrah!
hurrah! vacation's begun. Aunt Izzie, vacation's begun!" Then they
stopped short, for lo! the upper hall was all in confusion. Sounds of
beating and dusting came from the spare room. Tables and chairs were
standing about; and a cot-bed, which seemed to be taking a walk all by
itself, had stopped short at the head of the stairs, and barred the way.
"Why, how queer!" said Katy, trying to get by. "What _can_ be going to
happen? Oh, there's Aunt Izzie! Aunt Izzie, who's coming? What _are_ you
moving the things out of the Blue-room for?"
"Oh, gracious! is that you?" replied Aunt Izzie, who looked very hot and
flurried. "Now, children, it's no use for you to stand there asking
questions; I haven't got time to answer them. Let the bedstead alone,
Katy, you'll push it into the wall. There, I told you so!" as Katy gave
an impatient shove, "you've made a bad mark on the paper. What a
troublesome child you are! Go right down stairs, both of you, and don't
come up this way again till after tea. I've just as much as I can
possibly attend to till then."
"Just tell us what's going to happen, and we will," cried the children.
"Your Cousin Helen is coming to visit us," said Miss Izzie, curtly, and
disappeared into the Blue-room.
This was news indeed. Katy and Clover ran down stairs in great
excitement, and after consulting a little, retired to the Loft to talk
it over in peace and quiet. Cousin Helen coming! It seemed as strange as
if Queen Victoria, gold crown and all, had invited herself to tea. Or as
if some character out of a book, Robinson Crusoe, say, or "Amy Herbert,"
had driven up with a trunk and announced the intention of spending a
week. For to the imaginations of the children, Cousin Helen was as
interesting and unreal as anybody in the Fairy Tales: Cinderella, or
Blue-Beard, or dear Red Riding-Hood herself. Only there was a sort of
mixture of Sunday-school book in their idea of her, for Cousin Helen was
very, very good.
None of them had ever seen her. Philly said he was sure she hadn't any
legs, because she never went away from home, and lay on a sofa all the
time. But the rest knew that this was because Cousin Helen was ill. Papa
always went to visit her twice a year, and he liked to talk to the
children about her, and tell how sweet and patient she was, and what a
pretty room she lived in. Katy and Clover had "played Cousin Helen" so
long, that now they were frightened as well as glad at the idea of
seeing the real one.
"Do you suppose she will want us to say hymns to her all the time?"
"Not all the time," replied Katy, "because you know she'll get tired,
and have to take naps in the afternoons. And then, of course, she reads
the Bible a great deal. Oh dear, how quiet we shall have to be! I wonder
how long she's going to stay?"
"What do you suppose she looks like?" went on Clover.
"Something like 'Lucy,' in Mrs. Sherwood, I guess, with blue eyes, and
curls, and a long, straight nose. And she'll keep her hands clasped _so_
all the time, and wear 'frilled wrappers,' and lie on the sofa perfectly
still, and never smile, but just look patient. We'll have to take off
our boots in the hall, Clover, and go up stairs in stocking feet, so as
not to make a noise, all the time she stays."
"Won't it be funny!" giggled Clover, her sober little face growing
bright at the idea of this variation on the hymns.
The time seemed very long till the next afternoon, when Cousin Helen was
expected. Aunt Izzie, who was in a great excitement, gave the children
many orders about their behavior. They were to do this and that, and not
to do the other. Dorry, at last, announced that he wished Cousin Helen
would just stay at home. Clover and Elsie, who had been thinking pretty
much the same thing in private, were glad to hear that she was on her
way to a Water Cure, and would stay only four days.
Five o'clock came. They all sat on the steps waiting for the carriage.
At last it drove up. Papa was on the box. He motioned the children to
stand back. Then he helped out a nice-looking young woman, who, Aunt
Izzie told them, was Cousin Helen's nurse, and then, very carefully,
lifted Cousin Helen in his arms and brought her in.
"Oh, there are the chicks!" were the first words the children heard, in
such a gay, pleasant voice. "Do set me down somewhere, uncle. I want to
see them so much!"
So Papa put Cousin Helen on the hall sofa. The nurse fetched a pillow,
and when she was made comfortable, Dr. Carr called to the little ones.
"Cousin Helen wants to see you," he said.
"Indeed I do," said the bright voice. "So this is Katy? Why, what a
splendid tall Katy it is! And this is Clover," kissing her; "and this
dear little Elsie. You all look as natural as possible--just as if I had
seen you before."
And she hugged them all round, not as if it was polite to like them
because they were relations, but as if she had loved them and wanted
them all her life.
There was something in Cousin Helen's face and manner, which made the
children at home with her at once. Even Philly, who had backed away with
his hands behind him, after staring hard for a minute or two, came up
with a sort of rush to get his share of kissing.
Still, Katy's first feeling was one of disappointment. Cousin Helen was
not at all like "Lucy," in Mrs. Sherwood's story. Her nose turned up the
least bit in the world. She had brown hair, which didn't curl, a brown
skin, and bright eyes, which danced when she laughed or spoke. Her face
was thin, but except for that you wouldn't have guessed that she was
sick. She didn't fold her hands, and she didn't look patient, but
absolutely glad and merry. Her dress wasn't a "frilled wrapper," but a
sort of loose travelling thing of pretty gray stuff, with a rose-colored
bow, and bracelets, and a round hat trimmed with a gray feather. All
Katy's dreams about the "saintly invalid" seemed to take wings and fly
away. But the more she watched Cousin Helen the more she seemed to like
her, and to feel as if she were nicer than the imaginary person which
she and Clover had invented.
"She looks just like other people, don't she?" whispered Cecy, who had
come over to have a peep at the new arrival.
"Y-e-s," replied Katy, doubtfully, "only a great, great deal prettier."
By and by, Papa carried Cousin Helen up stairs. All the children wanted
to go too, but he told them she was tired, and must rest. So they went
out doors to play till tea-time.
"Oh, do let me take up the tray," cried Katy at the tea-table, as she
watched Aunt Izzie getting ready Cousin Helen's supper. Such a nice
supper! Cold chicken, and raspberries and cream, and tea in a pretty
pink-and-white china cup. And such a snow-white napkin as Aunt Izzie
spread over the tray!
"No indeed," said Aunt Izzie; "you'll drop it the first thing." But
Katy's eyes begged so hard, that Dr. Carr said, "Yes, let her, Izzie; I
like to see the girls useful."
So Katy, proud of the commission, took the tray and carried it
carefully across the hall. There was a bowl of flowers on the table. As
she passed, she was struck with a bright idea. She set down the tray,
and picking out a rose, laid it on the napkin besides the saucer of
crimson raspberries. It looked very pretty, and Katy smiled to herself
"What are you stopping for?" called Aunt Izzie, from the dining-room.
"Do be careful, Katy, I really think Bridget had better take it."
"Oh no, no!" protested Katy, "I'm most up already." And she sped up
stairs as fast as she could go. Luckless speed! She had just reached
the door of the Blue-room, when she tripped upon her boot-lace, which,
as usual, was dangling, made a misstep, and stumbled. She caught at
the door to save herself; the door flew open; and Katy, with the tray,
cream, raspberries, rose and all, descended in a confused heap upon
"I told you so!" exclaimed Aunt Izzie from the bottom of the stairs.
Katy never forgot how kind Cousin Helen was on this occasion. She was in
bed, and was of course a good deal startled at the sudden crash and
tumble on her floor. But after one little jump, nothing could have been
sweeter than the way in which she comforted poor crest-fallen Katy, and
made so merry over the accident, that even Aunt Izzie almost forgot to
scold. The broken dishes were piled up and the carpet made clean again,
while Aunt Izzie prepared another tray just as nice as the first.
"Please let Katy bring it up!" pleaded Cousin Helen, in her pleasant
voice, "I am sure she will be careful this time. And Katy, I want
just such another rose on the napkin. I guess that was your
Katy _was_ careful.--This time all went well. The tray was placed safely
on a little table beside the bed, and Katy sat watching Cousin Helen eat
her supper with a warm, loving feeling at her heart. I think we are
scarcely ever so grateful to people as when they help us to get back our
Cousin Helen hadn't much appetite, though she declared everything was
delicious. Katy could see that she was very tired.
"Now," she said, when she had finished, "if you'll shake up this pillow,
_so;_--and move this other pillow a little, I think I will settle myself
to sleep. Thanks--that's just right. Why, Katy dear, you are a born
nurse Now kiss me. Good-night! To-morrow we will have a nice talk."
Katy went down stairs very happy.
"Cousin Helen's perfectly lovely," she told Clover. "And she's got on
the most _beautiful_ night-gown, all lace and ruffles. It's just like a
night-gown in a book."
"Isn't it wicked to care about clothes when you're sick?"
"I don't believe Cousin Helen _could_ do anything wicked," said Katy.
"I told Ma that she had on bracelets, and Ma said she feared your cousin
was a worldly person," retorted Cecy, primming up her lips.
Katy and Clover were quite distressed at this opinion. They talked about
it while they were undressing.
"I mean to ask Cousin Helen to-morrow," said Katy.
Next morning the children got up very early. They were so glad that it
was vacation! If it hadn't been, they would have been forced to go to
school without seeing Cousin Helen, for she didn't wake till late.
They grew so impatient of the delay, and went up stairs so often to
listen at the door, and see if she were moving, that Aunt Izzie
finally had to order them off. Katy rebelled against this order a good
deal, but she consoled herself by going into the garden and picking
the prettiest flowers she could find, to give to Cousin Helen the
moment she should see her.
When Aunt Izzie let her go up, Cousin Helen was lying on the sofa all
dressed for the day in a fresh blue muslin, with blue ribbons, and
cunning bronze slippers with rosettes on the toes. The sofa had been
wheeled round with its back to the light. There was a cushion with a
pretty fluted cover, that Katy had never seen before, and several other
things were scattered about, which gave the room quite a different air.
All the house was neat, but somehow Aunt Izzie's rooms never were
pretty. Children's eyes are quick to perceive such things, and Katy saw
at once that the Blue-room had never looked like this.
Cousin Helen was white and tired, but her eyes and smile were as bright
as ever. She was delighted with the flowers, which Katy presented
"Oh, how lovely!" she said; "I must put them in water right away. Katy
dear, don't you want to bring that little vase on the bureau and set it
on this chair beside me? And please pour a little water into it first."
"What a beauty!" cried Katy, as she lifted the graceful white cup swung
on a gilt stand. "Is it yours, Cousin Helen?"
"Yes, it is my pet vase. It stands on a little table beside me at home,
and I fancied that the Water Cure would seem more home-like if I had it
with me there, so I brought it along. But why do you look so puzzled,
Katy? Does it seem queer that a vase should travel about in a trunk?"
"No," said Katy, slowly, "I was only thinking--Cousin Helen, is it
worldly to have pretty things when you're sick?"
Cousin Helen laughed heartily.
"What put that idea into your head?" she asked.
"Cecy said so when I told her about your beautiful night-gown."
Cousin Helen laughed again.
"Well," she said, "I'll tell you what I think, Katy. Pretty things are
no more 'worldly' than ugly ones, except when they spoil us by making us
vain, or careless of the comfort of other people. And sickness is such a
disagreeable thing in itself, that unless sick people take great pains,
they soon grow to be eyesores to themselves and everybody about them. I
don't think it is possible for an invalid to be too particular. And when
one has the back-ache, and the head-ache, and the all-over ache," she
added, smiling, "there isn't much danger of growing vain because of a
ruffle more or less on one's night-gown, or a bit of bright ribbon."
Then she began to arrange the flowers, touching each separate one
gently, and as if she loved it.
"What a queer noise!" she exclaimed, suddenly stopping.
It _was_ queer--a sort of snuffing and snorting sound, as if a walrus or
a sea-horse were promenading up and down in the hall. Katy opened the
door. Behold! there were John and Dorry, very red in the face from
flattening their noses against the key-hole, in a vain attempt to see if
Cousin Helen were up and ready to receive company.
"Oh, let them come in!" cried Cousin Helen from her sofa.
So they came in, followed, before long, by Clover and Elsie. Such a
merry morning as they had! Cousin Helen proved to possess a perfect
genius for story-telling, and for suggesting games which could be played
about her sofa, and did not make more noise than she could bear. Aunt
Izzie, dropping in about eleven o'clock, found them having such a good
time, that almost before she knew it, _she_ was drawn into the game too.
Nobody had ever heard of such a thing before! There sat Aunt Izzie on
the floor, with three long lamp-lighters stuck in her hair, playing,
"I'm a genteel Lady, always genteel," in the jolliest manner possible.
The children were so enchanted at the spectacle, that they could hardly
attend to the game, and were always forgetting how many "horns" they
had. Clover privately thought that Cousin Helen must be a witch; and
Papa, when he came home at noon, said almost the same thing.
"What have you been doing to them, Helen?" he inquired, as he opened the
door, and saw the merry circle on the carpet. Aunt Izzie's hair was half
pulled down, and Philly was rolling over and over in convulsions of
laughter. But Cousin Helen said she hadn't done anything, and pretty
soon Papa was on the floor too, playing away as fast as the rest.
"I must put a stop to this," he cried, when everybody was tired of
laughing, and everybody's head was stuck as full of paper quills as a
porcupine's back. "Cousin Helen will be worn out. Run away, all of you,
and don't come near this door again till the clock strikes four. Do you
hear, chicks? Run--run! Shoo! shoo!"
The children scuttled away like a brood of fowls--all but Katy. "Oh,
Papa, I'll be _so_ quiet!" she pleaded. "Mightn't I stay just till the
"Do let her!" said Cousin Helen, so Papa said "Yes."
Katy sat on the floor holding Cousin Helen's hand, and listening to her
talk with Papa. It interested her, though it was about things and people
she did not know.
"How is Alex?" asked Dr. Carr, at length.
"Quite well now," replied Cousin Helen, with one of her brightest looks.
"He was run down and tired in the Spring, and we were a little anxious
about him, but Emma persuaded him to take a fortnight's vacation, and he
came back all right."
"Do you see them often?"
"Almost every day. And little Helen comes every day, you know, for
"Is she as pretty as she used to be?"
"Oh yes--prettier, I think. She is a lovely little creature: having her
so much with me is one of my greatest treats. Alex tries to think that
she looks a little as I used to. But that is a compliment so great, that
I dare not appropriate it."
Dr. Carr stooped and kissed Cousin Helen as if he could not help it. "My
_dear_ child," he said. That was all; but something in the tone made
"Papa," she said, after dinner, "who is Alex, that you and Cousin Helen
were talking about?"
"Why, Katy? What makes you want to know?"
"I can't exactly tell--only Cousin Helen looked so;--and you kissed
her;--and I thought perhaps it was something interesting."
"So it is," said Dr. Carr, drawing her on to his knee. "I've a mind to
tell you about it, Katy, because you're old enough to see how beautiful
it is, and wise enough (I hope) not to chatter or ask questions. Alex is
the name of somebody who, long ago, when Cousin Helen was well and
strong, she loved, and expected to marry."
"Oh! why didn't she?" cried Katy.
"She met with a dreadful accident," continued Dr. Carr. "For a long time
they thought she would die. Then she grew slowly better, and the doctors
told her that she might live a good many years, but that she would have
to lie on her sofa always, and be helpless, and a cripple.
"Alex felt dreadfully when he heard this. He wanted to marry Cousin
Helen just the same, and be her nurse, and take care of her always; but
she would not consent. She broke the engagement, and told him that some
day she hoped he would love somebody else well enough to marry her. So
after a good many years, he did, and now he and his wife live next door
to Cousin Helen, and are her dearest friends. Their little girl is named
'Helen.' All their plans are talked over with her, and there is nobody
in the world they think so much of."
"But doesn't it make Cousin Helen feel bad, when she sees them walking
about and enjoying themselves, and she can't move?" asked Katy.
"No," said Dr. Carr, "it doesn't, because Cousin Helen is half an angel
already, and loves other people better than herself. I'm very glad she
could come here for once. She's an example to us all, Katy, and I
couldn't ask anything better than to have my little girls take pattern
"It must be awful to be sick," soliloquized Katy, after Papa was
gone. "Why, if I had to stay in bed a whole week--I should _die_, I
know I should."
Poor Katy. It seemed to her, as it does to almost all young people,
that there is nothing in the world so easy as to die, the moment
things go wrong!
This conversation with Papa made Cousin Helen doubly interesting in
Katy's eyes. "It was just like something in a book," to be in the same
house with the heroine of a love-story so sad and sweet.
The play that afternoon was much interrupted, for every few minutes
somebody had to run in and see if it wasn't four o'clock. The instant
the hour came, all six children galloped up stairs.
"I think we'll tell stories this time," said Cousin Helen.
So they told stories. Cousin Helen's were the best of all. There was one
of them about a robber, which sent delightful chills creeping down all
their backs. All but Philly. He was so excited, that he grew warlike.
"I ain't afraid of robbers," he declared, strutting up and down. "When
they come, I shall just cut them in two with my sword which Papa gave
me. They did come once. I did cut them in two--three, five, eleven of
'em. You'll see!"
But that evening, after the younger children were gone to bed, and Katy
and Clover were sitting in the Blue-room, a lamentable howling was heard
from the nursery. Clover ran to see what was the matter. Behold--there
was Phil, sitting up in bed, and crying for help.
"There's robbers under the bed," he sobbed; "ever so many robbers."
"Why no, Philly!" said Clover, peeping under the valance to satisfy him;
"there isn't anybody there."
"Yes, there is, I tell you," declared Phil, holding her tight. "I heard
one. They were _chewing my india-rubbers_."
"Poor little fellow!" said Cousin Helen, when Clover, having pacified
Phil, came back to report. "It's a warning against robber stories. But
this one ended so well, that I didn't think of anybody's being
It was no use, after this, for Aunt Izzie to make rules about going into
the Blue-room. She might as well have ordered flies to keep away from a
sugar-bowl. By hook or by crook, the children _would_ get up stairs.
Whenever Aunt Izzie went in, she was sure to find them there, just as
close to Cousin Helen as they could get. And Cousin Helen begged her not
"We have only three or four days to be together," she said. "Let them
come as much as they like. It won't hurt me a bit."
Little Elsie clung with a passionate love to this new friend. Cousin
Helen had sharp eyes. She saw the wistful look in Elsie's face at once,
and took special pains to be sweet and tender to her. This preference
made Katy jealous. She couldn't bear to share her cousin with anybody.
When the last evening came, and they went up after tea to the Blue-room,
Cousin Helen was opening a box which had just come by Express.
"It is a Good-by Box," she said. "All of you must sit down in a row, and
when I hide my hands behind me, _so_, you must choose in turn which you
So they all chose in turn, "Which hand will you have, the right or the
left?" and Cousin Helen, with the air of a wise fairy, brought out from
behind her pillow something pretty for each one. First came a vase
exactly like her own, which Katy had admired so much. Katy screamed with
delight as it was placed in her hands:
"Oh, how lovely! how lovely!" she cried. "I'll keep it as long as I live
"If you do, it'll be the first time you ever kept anything for a week
without breaking it," remarked Aunt Izzie.
Next came a pretty purple pocket-book for Clover. It was just what she
wanted, for she had lost her porte-monnaie. Then a cunning little locket
on a bit of velvet ribbon, which Cousin Helen tied round Elsie's neck.
"There's a piece of my hair in it," she said. "Why, Elsie, darling,
what's the matter? Don't cry so!"
"Oh, you're s-o beautiful, and s-o sweet!" sobbed Elsie; "and you're
Dorry had a box of dominoes, and John a solitaire board. For Phil there
appeared a book--"The History of the Robber Cat."
"That will remind you of the night when the thieves came and chewed your
india-rubbers," said Cousin Helen, with a mischievous smile. They all
laughed, Phil loudest of all.
Nobody was forgotten. There was a notebook for Papa, and a set of ivory
tablets for Aunt Izzie. Even Cecy was remembered. Her present was "The
Book of Golden Deeds," with all sorts of stories about boys and girls
who had done brave and good things. She was almost too pleased to speak.
"Oh, thank you, Cousin Helen!" she said at last. Cecy wasn't a
cousin, but she and the Carr children were in the habit of sharing
their aunts and uncles, and relations generally, as they did their
other good things.
Next day came the sad parting. All the little ones stood at the gate,
to wave their pocket-handkerchiefs as the carriage drove away. When it
was quite out of sight, Katy rushed off to "weep a little weep," all
"Papa said he wished we were all 1ike Cousin Helen," she thought, as she
wiped her eyes, "and I mean to try, though I don't suppose if I tried a
thousand years I should ever get to be half so good. I'll study, and
keep my things in order, and be ever so kind to the little ones. Dear
me--if only Aunt Izzie was Cousin Helen, how easy it would be! Never
mind--I'll think about her all the time, and I'll begin to-morrow."
"To-morrow I will begin," thought Katy, as she dropped asleep that
night. How often we all do so! And what a pity it is that when morning
comes and to-morrow is to-day, we so frequently wake up feeling quite
differently; careless or impatient, and not a bit inclined to do the
fine things we planned overnight.
Sometimes it seems as if there must be wicked little imps in the world,
who are kept tied up so long as the sun shines, but who creep into our
bed-rooms when we are asleep, to tease us and ruffle our tempers. Else,
why, when we go to rest good-natured and pleasant, should we wake up so
cross? Now there was Katy. Her last sleepy thought was an intention to
be an angel from that time on, and as much like Cousin Helen as she
could; and when she opened her eyes she was all out of sorts, and as
fractious as a bear! Old Mary said that she got out of bed on the wrong
side. I wonder, by the way, if anybody will ever be wise enough to tell
us which side that is, so that we may always choose the other? How
comfortable it would be if they could!
You know how, if we begin the day in a cross mood, all sorts of
unfortunate accidents seem to occur to add to our vexations. The very
first thing Katy did this morning was to break her precious vase--the
one Cousin Helen had given her.
It was standing on the bureau with a little cluster of blush-roses in
it. The bureau had a swing-glass. While Katy was brushing her hair, the
glass tipped a little so that she could not see. At a good-humored
moment, this accident wouldn't have troubled her much. But being out of
temper to begin with, it made her angry. She gave the glass a violent
push. The lower part swung forward, there was a smash, and the first
thing Katy knew, the blush-roses lay scattered all over the floor, and
Cousin Helen's pretty present was ruined.
Katy just sat down on the carpet and cried as hard as if she had been
Phil himself. Aunt Izzie heard her lamenting, and came in.
"I'm very sorry," she said, picking up the broken glass, "but it's no
more than I expected, you're so careless, Katy. Now don't sit there in
that foolish way! Get up and dress yourself. You'll be late to
"What's the matter?" asked Papa, noticing Katy's red eyes as she took
her seat at the table.
"I've broken my vase," said Katy, dolefully.
"It was extremely careless of you to put it in such a dangerous place,"
said her aunt. "You might have known that the glass would swing and
knock it off." Then, seeing a big tear fall in the middle of Katy's
plate, she added: "Really, Katy, you're too big to behave like a baby.
Why Dorry would be ashamed to do so. Pray control yourself!"
This snub did not improve Katy's temper. She went on with her breakfast
in sulky silence.
"What are you all going to do to-day?" asked Dr. Carr, hoping to give
things a more cheerful turn.
"Swing!" cried John and Dorry both together. "Alexander's put us up a
splendid one in the wood-shed."
"No you're not," said Aunt Izzie in a positive tone, "the swing is not
to be used till to-morrow. Remember that, children. Not till to-morrow.
And not then, unless I give you leave."
This was unwise of Aunt Izzie. She would better have explained farther.
The truth was, that Alexander, in putting up the swing, had cracked one
of the staples which fastened it to the roof. He meant to get a new one
in the course of the day, and, meantime, he had cautioned Miss Carr to
let no one use the swing, because it really was not safe. If she had
told this to the children, all would have been right; but Aunt Izzie's
theory was, that young people must obey their elders without
John, and Elsie, and Dorry, all pouted when they heard this order. Elsie
recovered her good-humor first.
"I don't care," she said, "'cause I'm going to be very busy; I've got to
write a letter to Cousin Helen about somefing." (Elsie never could quite
pronounce the _th_.)
"What?" asked Clover.
"Oh, somefing," answered Elsie, wagging her head mysteriously. "None of
the rest of you must know, Cousin Helen said so, it's a secret she and
me has got."
"I don't believe Cousin Helen said so at all," said Katy, crossly. "She
wouldn't tell secrets to a silly little girl like you."
"Yes she would too," retorted Elsie angrily. "She said I was just as
good to trust as if I was ever so big. And she said I was her pet. So
there! Katy Carr!"
"Stop disputing," said Aunt Izzie. "Katy your top-drawer is all out of
order. I never saw anything look so badly. Go up stairs at once and
straighten it, before you do anything else. Children, you must keep in
the shade this morning. It's too hot for you to be running about in the
sun. Elsie, go into the kitchen and tell Debby I want to speak to her."
"Yes," said Elsie, in an important tone, "And afterwards I'm coming back
to write my letter to Cousin Helen."
Katy went slowly up stairs, dragging one foot after the other. It was a
warm, languid day. Her head ached a little, and her eyes smarted and
felt heavy from crying so much. Everything seemed dull and hateful. She
said to herself, that Aunt Izzie was very unkind to make her work in
vacation, and she pulled the top-drawer open with a disgusted groan.
It must be confessed that Miss Izzie was right. A bureau-drawer could
hardly look worse than this one did. It reminded one of the White
Knight's recipe for a pudding, which began with blotting-paper, and
ended with sealing-wax and gunpowder. All sorts of things were mixed
together, as if somebody had put in a long stick and stirred them
well up. There were books and paint-boxes and bits of scribbled
paper, and lead-pencils and brushes. Stocking-legs had come unrolled,
and twisted themselves about pocket-handkerchiefs, and ends of
ribbon, and linen collars.
Ruffles, all crushed out of shape, stuck up from under the heavier
things, and sundry little paper boxes lay empty on top, the treasures
they once held having sifted down to the bottom of the drawer, and
disappeared beneath the general mass.
It took much time and patience to bring order out of this confusion. But
Katy knew that Aunt Izzie would be up by and by, and she dared not stop
till all was done. By the time it was finished, she was very tired.
Going down stairs, she met Elsie coming up with a slate in her hand,
which, as soon as she saw Katy, she put behind her.
"You mustn't look," she said, "it's my letter to Cousin Helen. Nobody
but me knows the secret. It's all written, and I'm going to send it to
the office. See--there's a stamp on it;" and she exhibited a corner of
the slate. Sure enough, there was a stamp stuck on the frame.
"You little goose!" said Katy, impatiently, "you can't send _that_ to
the post-office. Here, give me the slate. I'll copy what you've written
on paper, and Papa'll give you an envelope."
"No, no," cried Elsie, struggling, "you mustn't! You'll see what I've
said and Cousin Helen said I wasn't to tell. It's a secret. Let go of my
slate, I say! I'll tell Cousin Helen what a mean girl you are, and then
she won't love you a bit."
"There, then, take your old slate!" said Katy, giving her a vindictive
push. Elsie slipped, screamed, caught at the banisters, missed them, and
rolling over and over, fell with a thump on the hall floor.
It wasn't much of a fall, only half-a-dozen steps, but the bump was a
hard one, and Elsie roared as if she had been half killed. Aunt Izzie
and Mary came rushing to the spot.
"Katy--pushed--me," sobbed Elsie. "She wanted me to tell her my secret,
and I wouldn't. She's a bad, naughty girl!"
"Well, Katy Carr, I _should_ think you'd be ashamed of yourself," said
Aunt Izzie, "wreaking your temper on your poor little sister! I think
your Cousin Helen will be surprised when she hears this. There, there,
Elsie! Don't cry any more, dear. Come up stairs with me. I'll put on
some arnica, and Katy sha'n't hurt you again."
So they went up stairs. Katy, left below, felt very miserable:
repentant, defiant, discontented, and sulky all at once. She knew in
her heart that she had not meant to hurt Elsie, but was thoroughly
ashamed of that push; but Aunt Izzie's hint about telling Cousin Helen,
had made her too angry to allow of her confessing this to herself or
"I don't care!" she murmured, choking back her tears. "Elsie is a real
cry-baby, anyway. And Aunt Izzie always takes her part. Just because I
told the little silly not to go and send a great heavy slate to the
She went out by the side-door into the yard. As she passed the shed, the
new swing caught her eye.
"How exactly like Aunt Izzie," she thought, "ordering the children not
to swing till she gives them leave. I suppose she thinks it's too hot,
or something. _I_ sha'n't mind her, anyhow."
She seated herself in the swing. It was a first-rate one, with a broad,
comfortable seat, and thick new ropes. The seat hung just the right
distance from the floor. Alexander was a capital hand at putting up
swings, and the wood-shed the nicest possible spot in which to have one.
It was a big place, with a very high roof. There was not much wood left
in it just now, and the little there was, was piled neatly about the
sides of the shed, so as to leave plenty of room. The place felt cool
and dark, and the motion of the swing seemed to set the breeze blowing.
It waved Katy's hair like a great fan, and made her dreamy and quiet.
All sorts of sleepy ideas began to flit through her brain. Swinging to
and fro like the pendulum of a great clock, she gradually rose higher
and higher, driving herself along by the motion of her body, and
striking the floor smartly with her foot, at every sweep. Now she was at
the top of the high arched door. Then she could almost touch the
cross-beam above it, and through the small square window could see
pigeons sitting and pluming themselves on the eaves of the barn, and
white clouds blowing over the blue sky. She had never swung so high
before. It was like flying, she thought, and she bent and curved more
strongly in the seat, trying to send herself yet higher, and graze the
roof with her toes.
Suddenly, at the very highest point of the sweep, there was a sharp
noise of cracking. The swing gave a violent twist, spun half round, and
tossed Katy into the air. She clutched the rope,--felt it dragged from
her grasp,--then, down,--down--down--she fell. All grew dark, and she
knew no more.
When she opened her eyes she was lying on the sofa in the dining-room.
Clover was kneeling beside her with a pale, scared face, and Aunt Izzie
was dropping something cold and wet on her forehead.
"What's the matter?" said Katy, faintly.
"Oh, she's alive--she's alive!" and Clover put her arms round Katy's
neck and sobbed.
"Hush, dear!" Aunt Izzie's voice sounded unusually gentle. "You've had a
bad tumble, Katy. Don't you recollect?"
"A tumble? Oh, yes--out of the swing," said Katy, as it all came
slowly back to her. "Did the rope break, Aunt Izzie? I can't remember
"No, Katy, not the rope. The staple drew out of the roof. It was a
cracked one, and not safe. Don't you recollect my telling you not to
swing to-day? Did you forget?"
"No, Aunt Izzie--I didn't forget. I--" but here Katy broke down. She
closed her eyes, and big tears rolled from under the lids.
"Don't cry," whispered Clover, crying herself, "please don't. Aunt Izzie
isn't going to scold you." But Katy was too weak and shaken not to cry.
"I think I'd like to go up stairs and lie on the bed," she said. But
when she tried to get off the sofa, everything swam before her, and she
fell back again on the pillow.
"Why, I can't stand up!" she gasped, looking very much frightened.
"I'm afraid you've given yourself a sprain somewhere," said Aunt Izzie,
who looked rather frightened herself. "You'd better lie still a while,
dear, before you try to move. Ah, here's the doctor! well, I am glad."
And she went forward to meet him. It wasn't Papa, but Dr. Alsop, who
lived quite near them.
"I am so relieved that you could come," Aunt Izzie said. "My brother is
gone out of town not to return till to-morrow, and one of the little
girls has had a bad fall."
Dr. Alsop sat down beside the sofa and counted Katy's pulse. Then he
began feeling all over her.
"Can you move this leg?" he asked.
Katy gave a feeble kick.
The kick was a good deal more feeble.
"Did that hurt you?" asked Dr. Alsop, seeing a look of pain on her face.
"Yes, a little," replied Katy, trying hard not to cry.
"In your back, eh? Was the pain high up or low down?" And the doctor
punched Katy's spine for some minutes, making her squirm uneasily.
"I'm afraid she's done some mischief," he said at last, "but it's
impossible to tell yet exactly what. It may be only a twist, or a slight
sprain," he added, seeing the look of terror on Katy's face. "You'd
better get her up stairs and undress her as soon as you can, Miss Carr.
I'll leave a prescription to rub her with." And Dr. Alsop took out a bit
of paper and began to write.
"Oh, must I go to bed?" said Katy. "How long will I have to stay
"That depends on how fast you get well," replied the doctor; "not long,
I hope. Perhaps only a few days.
"A few days!" repeated Katy, in a despairing tone.
After the doctor was gone, Aunt Izzie and Debby lifted Katy, and carried
her slowly up stairs. It was not easy, for every motion hurt her, and
the sense of being helpless hurt most of all. She couldn't help crying
after she was undressed and put into bed. It all seemed so dreadful and
strange. If only Papa was here, she thought. But Dr. Carr had gone into
the country to see somebody who was very sick, and couldn't possibly be
back till to-morrow.
Such a long, long afternoon as that was! Aunt Izzie sent up some dinner,
but Katy couldn't eat. Her lips were parched and her head ached
violently. The sun began to pour in, the room grew warm. Flies buzzed in
the window, and tormented her by lighting on her face. Little prickles
of pain ran up and down her back. She lay with her eyes shut, because it
hurt to keep them open, and all sorts of uneasy thoughts went rushing
through her mind.
"Perhaps, if my back is really sprained, I shall have to lie here as
much as a week," she said to herself. "Oh dear, dear! I _can't_. The
vacation is only eight weeks, and I was going to do such lovely things!
How can people be as patient as Cousin Helen when they have to lie
still? Won't she be sorry when she hears! Was it really yesterday that
she went away? It seems a year. If only I hadn't got into that nasty old
swing!" And then Katy began to imagine how it would have been if she
_hadn't_, and how she and Clover had meant to go to Paradise that
afternoon. They might have been there under the cool trees now. As these
thoughts ran through her mind, her head grew hotter and her position in
the bed more uncomfortable.
Suddenly she became conscious that the glaring light from the window was
shaded, and that the wind seemed to be blowing freshly over her. She
opened her heavy eyes. The blinds were shut, and there beside the bed
sat little Elsie, fanning her with a palm-leaf fan.
"Did I wake you up, Katy?" she asked in a timid voice.
Katy looked at her with startled, amazed eyes.
"Don't be frightened," said Elsie, "I won't disturb you. Johnnie and me
are so sorry you're sick," and her little lips trembled. "But we mean to
keep real quiet, and never bang the nursery door, or make noises on the
stairs, till you're well again. And I've brought you somefing real nice.
Some of it's from John, and some from me. It's because you got tumbled
out of the swing. See--" and Elsie pointed triumphantly to a chair,
which she had pulled up close to the bed, and on which were solemnly set
forth: 1st. A pewter tea-set; 2d. A box with a glass lid, on which
flowers were painted; 3d. A jointed doll; 4th. A transparent slate; and
lastly, two new lead pencils!
"They're all yours--yours to keep," said generous little Elsie. "You
can have Pikery, too, if you want. Only he's pretty big, and I'm
afraid he'd be lonely without me. Don't you like the fings, Katy?
They're real pretty!"
It seemed to Katy as if the hottest sort of a coal of fire was burning
into the top of her head as she looked at the treasures on the chair,
and then at Elsie's face all lighted up with affectionate
self-sacrifice. She tried to speak, but began to cry instead, which
frightened Elsie very much.
"Does it hurt you so bad?" she asked, crying, too, from sympathy.
"Oh, no! it isn't that" sobbed Katy, "but I was so cross to you this
morning, Elsie, and pushed you. Oh, please forgive me, please do!"
"Why, it's got well!" said Elsie, surprised. "Aunt Izzie put a fing out
of a bottle on it, and the bump all went away. Shall I go and ask her to
put some on you too--I will." And she ran toward the door.
"Oh, no!" cried Katy, "don't go away, Elsie. Come here and kiss
Elsie turned as if doubtful whether this invitation could be meant for
her. Katy held out her arms. Elsie ran right into them, and the big
sister and the little, exchanged an embrace which seemed to bring their
hearts closer together than they had ever been before.
"You're the most _precious_ little darling," murmured Katy, clasping
Elsie tight. "I've been real horrid to you, Elsie. But I'll never be
again. You shall play with me and Clover, and Cecy, just as much as you
like, and write notes in all the post-offices, and everything else."
"Oh, goody! goody!" cried Elsie, executing little skips of transport.
"How sweet you are, Katy! I mean to love you next best to Cousin Helen
and Papa! And"--racking her brains for some way of repaying this
wonderful kindness--"I'll tell you the secret, if you want me to _very_
much. I guess Cousin Helen would let me."
"No!" said Katy; "never mind about the secret. I don't want you to tell
it to me. Sit down by the bed, and fan me some more instead."
"No!" persisted Elsie, who, now that she had made up her mind to part
with the treasured secret, could not bear to be stopped. "Cousin Helen
gave me a half-dollar, and told me to give it to Debby, and tell her she
was much obliged to her for making her such nice things to eat. And I
did. And Debby was real pleased. And I wrote Cousin Helen a letter, and
told her that Debby liked the half-dollar. That's the secret! Isn't it a
nice one? Only you mustn't tell anybody about it, ever--just as long as
"No!" said Katy, smiling faintly, "I won't."
All the rest of the afternoon Elsie sat beside the bed with her
palm-leaf fan, keeping off the flies, and "shue"-ing away the other
children when they peeped in at the door. "Do you really like to have me
here?" she asked, more than once, and smiled, oh, _so_ triumphantly!
when Katy said "Yes!" But though Katy said yes, I am afraid it was only
half the truth, for the sight of the dear little forgiving girl, whom
she had treated unkindly, gave her more pain than pleasure.
"I'll be _so_ good to her when I get well," she thought to herself,
tossing uneasily to and fro.
Aunt Izzie slept in her room that night. Katy was feverish. When morning
came, and Dr. Carr returned, he found her in a good deal of pain, hot
and restless, with wide-open, anxious eyes.
"Papa!" she cried the first thing, "must I lie here as much as a week?"
"My darling, I'm afraid you must," replied her father, who looked
worried, and very grave.
"Dear, dear!" sobbed Katy, "how can I bear it?"
If anybody had told Katy, that first afternoon, that at the end of a
week she would still be in bed, and in pain, and with no time fixed for
getting up, I think it would have almost killed her. She was so restless
and eager, that to lie still seemed one of the hardest things in the
world. But to lie still and have her back ache all the time, was worse
yet. Day after day she asked Papa with quivering lip: "Mayn't I get up
and go down stairs this morning?" And when he shook his head, the lip
would quiver more, and tears would come. But if she tried to get up, it
hurt her so much, that in spite of herself she was glad to sink back
again on the soft pillows and mattress, which felt so comfortable to her
Then there came a time when Katy didn't even ask to be allowed to get
up. A time when sharp, dreadful pain, such as she never imagined
before, took hold of her. When days and nights got all confused and
tangled up together, and Aunt Izzie never seemed to go to bed. A time
when Papa was constantly in her room. When other doctors came and stood
over her, and punched and felt her back, and talked to each other in
low whispers. It was all like a long, bad dream, from which she
couldn't wake up, though she tried ever so hard. Now and then she would
rouse a little, and catch the sound of voices, or be aware that Clover
or Elsie stood at the door, crying softly; or that Aunt Izzie, in
creaking slippers, was going about the room on tiptoe. Then all these
things would slip away again, and she would drop off into a dark place,
where there was nothing but pain, and sleep, which made her forget
pain, and so seemed the best thing in the world.
We will hurry over this time, for it is hard to think of our bright Katy
in such a sad plight. By and by the pain grew less, and the sleep
quieter. Then, as the pain became easier still, Katy woke up as it
were--began to take notice of what was going on about her; to put
"How long have I been sick?" she asked one morning.
"It is four weeks yesterday," said Papa.
"Four weeks!" said Katy. "Why, I didn't know it was so long as that. Was
I very sick, Papa?"
"Very, dear. But you are a great deal better now."
"How did I hurt me when I tumbled out of the swing?" asked Katy, who was
in an unusually wakeful mood.
"I don't believe I could make you understand, dear."
"But try, Papa!"
"Well--did you know that you had a long bone down your back,
called a spine?"
"I thought that was a disease," said Katy. "Clover said that Cousin
Helen had the spine!"
"No--the spine is a bone. It is made up of a row of smaller bones--or
knobs--and in the middle of it is a sort of rope of nerves called the
spinal cord. Nerves, you know, are the things we feel with. Well, this
spinal cord is rolled up for safe keeping in a soft wrapping, called
membrane. When you fell out of the swing, you struck against one of
these knobs, and bruised the membrane inside, and the nerve inflamed,
and gave you a fever in the back. Do you see?"
"A little," said Katy, not quite understanding, but too tired to
question farther. After she had rested a while, she said: "Is the fever
well now, Papa? Can I get up again and go down stairs right away?"
"Not right away, I'm afraid," said Dr. Carr, trying to speak cheerfully.
Katy didn't ask any more questions then. Another week passed, and
another. The pain was almost gone. It only came back now and then for a
few minutes. She could sleep now, and eat, and be raised in bed without
feeling giddy. But still the once active limbs hung heavy and lifeless,
and she was not able to walk, or even stand alone.
"My legs feel so queer," she said one morning, "they are just like the
Prince's legs which were turned to black marble in the Arabian Nights.
What do you suppose is the reason, Papa? Won't they feel natural soon?"
"Not soon," answered Dr. Carr. Then he said to himself: "Poor child! she
had better know the truth." So he went on, aloud, "I am afraid, my
darling, that you must make up your mind to stay in bed a long time."
"How long?" said Katy, looking frightened: "a month more?"
"I can't tell exactly how long," answered her father. "The doctors
think, as I do, that the injury to your spine is one which you will
outgrow by and by, because you are so young and strong. But it may take
a good while to do it. It may be that you will have to lie here for
months, or it may be more. The only cure for such a hurt is time and
patience. It is hard, darling"--for Katy began to sob wildly--"but you
have Hope to help you along. Think of poor Cousin Helen, bearing all
these years without hope!"
"Oh, Papa!" gasped Katy, between her sobs, "doesn't it seem dreadful,
that just getting into the swing for a few minutes should do so much
harm? Such a little thing as that!"
"Yes, such a little thing!" repeated Dr. Carr, sadly. "And it was only a
little thing, too, forgetting Aunt Izzie's order about the swing. Just
for the want of the small 'horseshoe nail' of Obedience, Katy."
Years afterwards, Katy told somebody that the longest six weeks of her
life were those which followed this conversation with Papa. Now that she
knew there was no chance of getting well at once, the days dragged
dreadfully. Each seemed duller and dismaller than the day before. She
lost heart about herself, and took no interest in anything. Aunt Izzie
brought her books, but she didn't want to read, or to sew. Nothing
amused her. Clover and Cecy would come and sit with her, but hearing
them tell about their plays, and the things they had been doing, made
her cry so miserably, that Aunt Izzie wouldn't let them come often. They
were very sorry for Katy, but the room was so gloomy, and Katy so cross,
that they didn't mind much not being allowed to see her. In those days
Katy made Aunt Izzie keep the blinds shut tight, and she lay in the
dark, thinking how miserable she was, and how wretched all the rest of
her life was going to be. Everybody was very kind and patient with her,
but she was too selfishly miserable to notice it. Aunt Izzie ran up and
down stairs, and was on her feet all day, trying to get something which
would please her, but Katy hardly said "Thank you," and never saw how
tired Aunt Izzie looked. So long as she was forced to stay in bed, Katy
could not be grateful for anything that was done for her.
But doleful as the days were, they were not so bad as the nights, when,
after Aunt Izzie was asleep, Katy would lie wide awake, and have long,
hopeless fits of crying. At these times she would think of all the plans
she had made for doing beautiful things when she was grown up. "And now
I shall never do any of them," she would say to herself, "only just lie
here. Papa says I may get well by and by, but I sha'n't, I know I
sha'n't. And even if I do, I shall have wasted all these years, and the
others will grow up and get ahead of me, and I sha'n't be a comfort to
them or to anybody else. Oh dear! oh dear! how dreadful it is!"
The first thing which broke in upon this sad state of affairs, was a
letter from Cousin Helen, which Papa brought one morning and handed to
"Helen tells me she's going home this week," said Aunt Izzie, from the
window, where she had gone to read the letter. "Well, I'm sorry, but I
think she's quite right not to stop. It's just as she says: one
invalid at a time is enough in a house. I'm sure I have my hands full
"Oh, Aunt Izzie!" cried Katy, "is Cousin Helen coming this way when she
goes home? Oh! do make her stop. If it's just for one day, do ask her! I
want to see her so much! I can't tell you how much! Won't you? Please!
Please, dear Papa!"
She was almost crying with eagerness.
"Why, yes, darling, if you wish it so much," said Dr. Carr. "It will
cost Aunt Izzie some trouble, but she's so kind that I'm sure she'll
manage it if it is to give you so much pleasure. Can't you, Izzie?" And
he looked eagerly at his sister.
"Of course I will!" said Miss Izzie, heartily. Katy was so glad, that,
for the first time in her life, she threw her arms of her own accord
round Aunt Izzie's neck, and kissed her.
"Thank you, dear Aunty!" she said.
Aunt Izzie looked as pleased as could be. She had a warm heart
hidden under her fidgety ways--only Katy had never been sick before,
to find it out.
For the next week Katy was feverish with expectation. At last Cousin
Helen came. This time Katy was not on the steps to welcome her, but
after a little while Papa brought Cousin Helen in his arms, and sat her
in a big chair beside the bed.
"How dark it is!" she said, after they had kissed each other and talked
for a minute or two; "I can't see your face at all. Would it hurt your
eyes to have a little more light?"
"Oh no!" answered Katy. "It don't hurt my eyes, only I hate to have the
sun come in. It makes me feel worse, somehow."
"Push the blind open a little bit then Clover;" and Clover did so.
"Now I can see," said Cousin Helen.
It was a forlorn-looking child enough which she saw lying before her.
Katy's face had grown thin, and her eyes had red circles about them from
continual crying. Her hair had been brushed twice that morning by Aunt
Izzie, but Katy had run her fingers impatiently through it, till it
stood out above her head like a frowsy bush. She wore a calico
dressing-gown, which, though clean, was particularly ugly in pattern;
and the room, for all its tidiness, had a dismal look, with the chairs
set up against the wall, and a row of medicine-bottles on the
"Isn't it horrid?" sighed Katy, as Cousin Helen looked around.
"Everything's horrid. But I don't mind so much now that you've come. Oh,
Cousin Helen, I've had such a dreadful, _dreadful_ time!"
"I know," said her cousin, pityingly. "I've heard all about it, Katy,
and I'm so very sorry for you! It is a hard trial, my poor darling."
"But how do _you_ do it?" cried Katy.
"How do you manage to be so sweet and beautiful and patient, when you're
feeling badly all the time, and can't do anything, or walk, or
stand?"--her voice was lost in sobs.
Cousin Helen didn't say anything for a little while. She just sat and
stroked Katy's hand.
"Katy," she said at last, "has Papa told you that he thinks you are
going to get well by and by?"
"Yes," replied Katy, "he did say so. But perhaps it won't be for a long,
long time. And I wanted to do so many things. And now I can't do
anything at all!"
"What sort of things?"
"Study, and help people, and become famous. And I wanted to teach the
children. Mamma said I must take care of them, and I meant to. And now I
can't go to school or learn anything myself. And if I ever do get well,
the children will be almost grown up, and they won't need me."
"But why must you wait till you get well?" asked Cousin Helen, smiling.
"Why, Cousin Helen, what can I do lying here in bed?"
"A good deal. Shall I tell you, Katy, what it seems to me that I should
say to myself if I were in your place?"
"Yes, please!" replied Katy wonderingly.
"I should say this: 'Now, Katy Carr, you wanted to go to school and
learn to be wise and useful, and here's a chance for you. God is going
to let you go to _His_ school--where He teaches all sorts of beautiful
things to people. Perhaps He will only keep you for one term, or perhaps
it may be for three or four; but whichever it is, you must make the very
most of the chance, because He gives it to you Himself.'"
"But what is the school?" asked Katy. "I don't know what you mean."
"It is called The School of Pain," replied Cousin Helen, with her
sweetest smile. "And the place where the lessons are to be learned is
this room of yours. The rules of the school are pretty hard, but the
good scholars, who keep them best, find out after a while how right and
kind they are. And the lessons aren't easy, either, but the more you
study the more interesting they become."
"What are the lessons?" asked Katy, getting interested, and beginning to
feel as if Cousin Helen were telling her a story.
"Well, there's the lesson of Patience. That's one of the hardest
studies. You can't learn much of it at a time, but every bit you get by
heart, makes the next bit easier. And there's the lesson of
Cheerfulness. And the lesson of Making the Best of Things."
"Sometimes there isn't anything to make the best of," remarked Katy,
"Yes there is, always! Everything in the world has two handles. Didn't
you know that? One is a smooth handle. If you take hold of it, the thing
comes up lightly and easily, but if you seize the rough handle, it hurts
your hand and the thing is hard to lift. Some people always manage to
get hold of the wrong handle."
"Is Aunt Izzie a 'thing?'" asked Katy. Cousin Helen was glad to hear
"Yes--Aunt Izzie is a _thing_--and she has a nice pleasant handle too,
if you just try to find it. And the children are 'things,' also, in one
sense. All their handles are different. You know human beings aren't
made just alike, like red flower-pots. We have to feel and guess before
we can make out just how other people go, and how we ought to take hold
of them. It is very interesting, I advise you to try it. And while you
are trying, you will learn all sorts of things which will help you to
"If I only could!" sighed Katy. "Are there any other studies in the
School, Cousin Helen?"
"Yes, there's the lesson of Hopefulness. That class has ever so many
teachers. The Sun is one. He sits outside the window all day waiting a
chance to slip in and get at his pupil. He's a first-rate teacher, too.
I wouldn't shut him out, if I were you.
"Every morning, the first thing when I woke up, I would say to myself:
'I am going to get well, so Papa thinks. Perhaps it may be to-morrow.
So, in case this _should_ be the last day of my sickness, let me spend
it _beauti-_fully, and make my sick-room so pleasant that everybody
will like to remember it.'
"Then, there is one more lesson, Katy--the lesson of Neatness.
School-rooms must be kept in order, you know. A sick person ought to be
as fresh and dainty as a rose."
"But it is such a fuss," pleaded Katy. "I don't believe you've any idea
what a bother it is to always be nice and in order. You never were
careless like me, Cousin Helen; you were born neat."
"Oh, was I?" said her Cousin. "Well, Katy, we won't dispute that point,
but I'll tell you a story, if you like, about a girl I once knew, who
_wasn't_ born neat."
"Oh, do!" cried Katy, enchanted. Cousin Helen had done her good,
already. She looked brighter and less listless than for days.
"This girl was quite young," continued Cousin Helen; "she was strong and
active, and liked to run, and climb, and ride, and do all sorts of jolly
things. One day something happened--an accident--and they told her that
all the rest of her life she had got to lie on her back and suffer pain,
and never walk any more, or do any of the things she enjoyed most."
"Just like you and me!" whispered Katy, squeezing Cousin Helen's hand.
"Something like me; but not so much like you, because, you know, we hope
_you_ are going to get well one of these days. The girl didn't mind it
so much when they first told her, for she was so ill that she felt sure
she should die. But when she got better, and began to think of the long
life which lay before her, that was worse than ever the pain had been.
She was so wretched, that she didn't care what became of anything, or
how anything looked. She had no Aunt Izzie to look after things, so her
room soon got into a dreadful state. It was full of dust and confusion,
and dirty spoons and phials of physic. She kept the blinds shut, and let
her hair tangle every which way, and altogether was a dismal spectacle.
"This girl had a dear old father," went on Cousin Helen, "who used to
come every day and sit beside her bed. One morning he said to her:
"'My daughter, I'm afraid you've got to live in this room for a long
time. Now there's one thing I want you to do for my sake.'
"'What's that?' she asked, surprised to hear there was anything left
which she could _do_ for anybody.
"'I want you to turn out all these physic bottles, and make your room
pleasant and pretty for _me_ to come and sit in. You see, I shall spend
a good deal of my time here! Now I don't like dust and darkness. I like
to see flowers on the table, and sunshine in at the window. Will you do
this to please me?'
"'Yes,' said the girl, but she gave a sigh, and I am afraid she felt as
if it was going to be a dreadful trouble.
"'Then, another thing,' continued her father, 'I want _you_ to look
pretty. Can't nightgowns and wrappers be trimmed and made becoming just
as much as dresses? A sick woman who isn't neat is a disagreeable
object. Do, to please me, send for something pretty, and let me see you
looking nice again. I can't bear to have my Helen turn into a
"Helen!" exclaimed Katy, with wide-open eyes, "was it _you_?"
"Yes," said her cousin, smiling. "It was I though I didn't mean to let
the name slip out so soon. So, after my father was gone away, I sent for
a looking-glass. Such a sight, Katy! My hair was a perfect mouse's nest,
and I had frowned so much that my forehead was all criss-crossed with
lines of pain, till it looked like an old woman's."
Katy stared at Cousin Helen's smooth brow and glossy hair. "I can't
believe it," she said; "your hair never could be rough."
"Yes it was--worse, a great deal, than yours looks now. But that peep in
the glass did me good. I began to think how selfishly I was behaving,
and to desire to do better. And after that, when the pain came on, I
used to lie and keep my forehead smooth with my fingers, and try not to
let my face show what I was enduring. So by and by the wrinkles wore
away, and though I am a good deal older now, they have never come back.
"It was a great deal of trouble at first to have to think and plan to
keep my room and myself looking nice. But after a while it grew to be a
habit, and then it became easy. And the pleasure it gave my dear father
repaid for all. He had been proud of his active, healthy girl, but I
think she was never such a comfort to him as his sick one, lying there
in her bed. My room was his favorite sitting-place, and he spent so
much time there, that now the room, and everything in it, makes me
think of him."
There were tears in Cousin Helen's eyes as she ceased speaking. But Katy
looked bright and eager. It seemed somehow to be a help, as well as a
great surprise, that ever there should have been a time when Cousin
Helen was less perfect than she was now.
"Do you really think I could do so too?" she asked.
"Do what? Comb your hair?" Cousin Helen was smiling now.
"Oh no! Be nice and sweet and patient, and a comfort to people. You know
what I mean."
"I am sure you can, if you try."
"But what would you do first?" asked Katy; who, now that her mind had
grasped a new idea, was eager to begin.
"Well--first I would open the blinds, and make the room look a little
less dismal. Are you taking all those medicines in the bottles now?"
"No--only that big one with the blue label."
"Then you might ask Aunt Izzy to take away the others. And I'd get
Clover to pick a bunch of fresh flowers every day for your table. By the
way, I don't see the little white vase."
"No--it got broken the very day after you went away; the day I fell out
of the swing," said Katy, sorrowfully.
"Never mind, pet, don't look so doleful. I know the tree those vases
grow upon, and you shall have another. Then, after the room is made
pleasant, I would have all my lesson-books fetched up, if I were you,
and I would study a couple of hours every morning."
"Oh!" cried Katy, making a wry face at the idea.
Cousin Helen smiled. "I know," said she, "it sounds like dull work,
learning geography and doing sums up here all by yourself. But I think
if you make the effort you'll be glad by and by. You won't lose so much
ground, you see--won't slip back quite so far in your education. And
then, studying will be like working at a garden, where things don't grow
easily. Every flower you raise will be a sort of triumph, and you will
value it twice as much as a common flower which has cost no trouble."
"Well," said Katy, rather forlornly, "I'll try. But it won't be a bit
nice studying without anybody to study with me. Is there anything else,
Just then the door creaked, and Elsie timidly put her head into the
"Oh, Elsie, run away!" cried Katy. "Cousin Helen and I are talking.
Don't come just now."
Katy didn't speak unkindly, but Elsie's face fell, and she looked
disappointed. She said nothing, however, but shut the door and
Cousin Helen watched this little scene without speaking. For a few
minutes after Elsie was gone she seemed to be thinking.
"Katy," she said at last, "you were saying just now, that one of the
things you were sorry about was that while you were ill you could be of
no use to the children. Do you know, I don't think you have that reason
for being sorry."
"Why not?" said Katy, astonished.
"Because you can be of use. It seems to me that you have more of a
chance with the children now, than you ever could have had when you were
well, and flying about as you used. You might do almost anything you
liked with them."
"I can't think what you mean," said Katy, sadly. "Why, Cousin Helen,
half the time I don't even know where they are, or what they are doing.
And I can't get up and go after them, you know."
"But you can make your room such a delightful place, that they will
want to come to you! Don't you see, a sick person has one splendid
chance--she is always on hand. Everybody who wants her knows just
where to go. If people love her, she gets naturally to be the heart of
"Once make the little ones feel that your room is the place of all
others to come to when they are tired, or happy, or grieved, or sorry
about anything, and that the Katy who lives there is sure to give them a
loving reception--and the battle is won. For you know we never do
people good by lecturing; only by living their lives with them, and
helping a little here, and a little there, to make them better. And when
one's own life is laid aside for a while, as yours is now, that is the
very time to take up other people's lives, as we can't do when we are
scurrying and bustling over our own affairs. But I didn't mean to preach
a sermon. I'm afraid you're tired."
"No, I'm not a bit," said Katy, holding Cousin Helen's hand tight in
hers; "you can't think how much better I feel. Oh, Cousin Helen, I
"It won't be easy," replied her cousin. "There will be days when your
head aches, and you feel cross and fretted, and don't want to think of
any one but yourself. And there'll be other days when Clover and the
rest will come in, as Elsie did just now, and you will be doing
something else, and will feel as if their coming was a bother. But you
must recollect that every time you forget, and are impatient or
selfish, you chill them and drive them farther away. They are loving
little things, and are so sorry for you now, that nothing you do makes
them angry. But by and by they will get used to having you sick, and if
you haven't won them as friends, they will grow away from you as they
Just then Dr. Carr came in.
"Oh, Papa! you haven't come to take Cousin Helen, have you?" cried Katy.
"Indeed I have," said her father. "I think the big invalid and the
little invalid have talked quite long enough. Cousin Helen looks tired."
For a minute, Katy felt just like crying. But she choked back the tears.
"My first lesson in Patience," she said to herself, and managed to give
a faint, watery smile as Papa looked at her.
"That's right, dear," whispered Cousin Helen, as she bent forward to
kiss her. "And one last word, Katy. In this school, to which you and I
belong, there is one great comfort, and that is that the Teacher is
always at hand. He never goes away. If things puzzle us, there He is,
close by, ready to explain and make all easy. Try to think of this,
darling, and don't be afraid to ask Him for help if the lesson seems
Katy had a strange dream that night. She thought she was trying to study
a lesson out of a book which wouldn't come quite open. She could just
see a little bit of what was inside, but it was in a language which she
did not understand. She tried in vain; not a word could she read; and
yet, for all that, it looked so interesting that she longed to go on.
"Oh, if somebody would only help me!" she cried impatiently.
Suddenly a hand came over her shoulder and took hold of the book. It
opened at once, and showed the whole page. And then the forefinger of
the hand began to point to line after line, and as it moved the words
became plain, and Katy could read them easily. She looked up. There,
stooping over her, was a great beautiful Face. The eyes met hers. The
"Why didn't you ask me before, Little Scholar?" said a voice.
"Why, it is You, just as Cousin Helen told me!" cried Katy.
She must have spoken in her sleep, for Aunt Izzie half woke up, and
"What is it? Do you want anything?"
The dream broke, and Katy roused, to find herself in bed, with the first
sunbeams struggling in at the window, and Aunt Izzie raised on her
elbow, looking at her with a sort of sleepy wonder.
ST. NICHOLAS AND ST. VALENTINE
"What are the children all doing to-day?" said Katy laying down "Norway
and the Norwegians," which she was reading for the fourth time; "I
haven't seen them since breakfast."
Aunt Izzie, who was sewing on the other side of the room, looked up
from her work.
"I don't know," she said, "they're over at Cecy's, or somewhere. They'll
be back before long, I guess."
Her voice sounded a little odd and mysterious, but Katy didn't
"I thought of such a nice plan yesterday," she went on. "That was that
all of them should hang their stockings up here to-morrow night instead
of in the nursery. Then I could see them open their presents, you know.
Mayn't they, Aunt Izzie? It would be real fun."
"I don't believe there will be any objection," replied her aunt. She
looked as if she were trying not to laugh. Katy wondered what was the
matter with her.
It was more than two months now since Cousin Helen went away, and Winter
had fairly come. Snow was falling out-doors. Katy could see the thick
flakes go whirling past the window, but the sight did not chill her. It
only made the room look warmer and more cosy. It was a pleasant room
now. There was a bright fire in the grate. Everything was neat and
orderly, the air was sweet with mignonette, from a little glass of
flowers which stood on the table, and the Katy who lay in bed, was a
very different-looking Katy from the forlorn girl of the last chapter.
Cousin Helen's visit, though it lasted only one day, did great good. Not
that Katy grew perfect all at once. None of us do that, even in books.
But it is everything to be started in the right path. Katy's feet were
on it now; and though she often stumbled and slipped, and often sat down
discouraged, she kept on pretty steadily, in spite of bad days, which
made her say to herself that she was not getting forward at all.
These bad days, when everything seemed hard, and she herself was cross
and fretful, and drove the children out of her room, cost Katy many
bitter tears. But after them she would pick herself up, and try again,
and harder. And I think that in spite of drawbacks, the little scholar,
on the whole, was learning her lesson pretty well.
Cousin Helen was a great comfort all this time. She never forgot Katy.
Nearly every week some little thing came from her. Sometimes it was a
pencil note, written from her sofa. Sometimes it was an interesting
book, or a new magazine, or some pretty little thing for the room. The
crimson wrapper which Katy wore was one of her presents, so were the
bright chromos of Autumn leaves which hung on the wall, the little stand
for the books--all sorts of things. Katy loved to look about her as she
lay. All the room seemed full of Cousin Helen and her kindness.
"I wish I had something pretty to put into everybody's stocking," she
went on, wistfully; "but I've only got the muffetees for Papa, and these
reins for Phil." She took them from under her pillow as she spoke--gay
worsted affairs, with bells sewed on here and there. She had knit them
herself, a very little bit at a time.
"There's my pink sash," she said suddenly, "I might give that to
Clover. I only wore it once, you know, and I don't think I got any
spots on it. Would you please fetch it and let me see, Aunt Izzie? It's
in the top drawer."
Aunt Izzie brought the sash. It proved to be quite fresh, and they both
decided that it would do nicely for Clover.
"You know I sha'n't want sashes for ever so long," said Katy, in rather
a sad tone, "And this is a beauty."
When she spoke next, her voice was bright again.
"I wish I had something real nice for Elsie. Do you know, Aunt Izzie--I
think Elsie is the dearest little girl that ever was."
"I'm glad you've found it out," said Aunt Izzie, who had always been
specially fond of Elsie.
"What she wants most of all is a writing-desk," continued Katy. "And
Johnnie wants a sled. But, oh dear! these are such big things. And I've
only got two dollars and a quarter."
Aunt Izzie marched out of the room without saying anything. When she
came back she had something folded up in her hand.
"I didn't know what to give you for Christmas, Katy," she said, "because
Helen sends you such a lot of things that there don't seem to be
anything you haven't already. So I thought I'd give you this, and let
you choose for yourself. But if you've set your heart on getting
presents for the children, perhaps you'd rather have it now." So saying,
Aunt Izzie laid on the bed a crisp, new five-dollar bill!
"How good you are!" cried Katy, flushed with pleasure. And indeed Aunt
Izzie _did_ seem to have grown wonderfully good of late. Perhaps Katy
had got hold of her smooth handle!
Being now in possession of seven dollars and a quarter, Katy could
afford to be gorgeously generous. She gave Aunt Izzie an exact
description of the desk she wanted.
"It's no matter about its being very big," said Katy, "but it must have
a blue velvet lining, and an inkstand, with a silver top. And please buy
some little sheets of paper and envelopes, and a pen-handle; the
prettiest you can find. Oh! and there must be a lock and key. Don't
forget that, Aunt Izzie."
"No, I won't. What else?"
"I'd like the sled to be green," went on Katy, "and to have a nice name.
Sky-Scraper would be nice, if there was one. Johnnie saw a sled once
called Sky-Scraper, and she said it was splendid. And if there's money
enough left, Aunty, won't you buy me a real nice book for Dorry, and
another for Cecy, and a silver thimble for Mary? Her old one is full of
holes. Oh! and some candy. And something for Debby and Bridget--some
little thing, you know. I think that's all!"
Was ever seven dollars and a quarter expected to do so much? Aunt Izzie
must have been a witch, indeed, to make it hold out. But she did, and
next day all the precious bundles came home. How Katy enjoyed untying
Everything was exactly right.
"There wasn't any Sky-Scraper," said Aunt Izzie, "so I got
"It's beautiful, and I like it just as well," said Katy contentedly.
"Oh, hide them, hide them!" she cried with sudden terror, "somebody's
coming." But the somebody was only Papa, who put his head into the room
as Aunt Izzie, laden with bundles, scuttled across the hall.
Katy was glad to catch him alone. She had a little private secret to
talk over with him. It was about Aunt Izzie, for whom she, as yet, had
"I thought perhaps you'd get me a book like that one of Cousin Helen's,
which Aunt Izzie liked so much," she said. "I don't recollect the name
exactly. It was something about a Shadow. But I've spent all my money."
"Never mind about that," said Dr. Carr. "We'll make that right. 'The
Shadow of the Cross'--was that it? I'll buy it this afternoon."
"Oh, thank you, Papa! And please get a brown cover, if you can, because
Cousin Helen's was brown. And you won't let Aunt Izzie know, will you?
Be careful, Papa!"
"I'll swallow the book first, brown cover and all," said Papa,
making a funny face. He was pleased to see Katy so interested about
These delightful secrets took up so much of her thoughts, that Katy
scarcely found time to wonder at the absence of the children, who
generally haunted her room, but who for three days back had hardly been
seen. However, after supper they all came up in a body, looking very
merry, and as if they had been having a good time somewhere.
"You don't know what we've been doing," began Philly.
"Hush, Phil!" said Clover, in a warning voice. Then she divided the
stockings which she held in her hand. And everybody proceeded to
hang them up.
Dorry hung his on one side of the fireplace, and John hers exactly
opposite. Clover and Phil suspended theirs side by side, on two handles
of the bureau.
"I'm going to put mine here, close to Katy, so that she can see it the
first fing in the mornin," said Elsie, pinning hers to the bed-post.
Then they all sat down round the fire to write their wishes on bits of
paper, and see whether they would burn, or fly up the chimney. If they
did the latter, it was a sign that Santa Claus had them safe, and would
bring the things wished for.
John wished for a sled and a doll's tea-set, and the continuation of the
Swiss Family Robinson. Dorry's list ran thus:
A new Bibel,
Harry and Lucy,
Everything else Santa Claus likes."
When they had written these lists they threw them into the fire. The
fire gave a flicker just then, and the papers vanished. Nobody saw
exactly how. John thought they flew up chimney, but Dorry said they
didn't. Phil dropped his piece in very solemnly. It flamed for a minute,
then sank into ashes.
"There, you won't get it, whatever it was!" said Dorry. "What did you
"Nofing," said Phil, "only just Philly Carr."
The children shouted.
"I wrote 'a writing-desk' on mine," remarked Elsie, sorrowfully, "but it
all burned up."
Katy chuckled when she heard this.
And now Clover produced her list. She read aloud:
"'Strive and Thrive,'
A pair of kid gloves,
A good temper!"