Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE LOUISA ALCOTT READER
_A Supplementary Reader for the Fourth Year of School_
BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT
[Illustration: “Lily rocked and ate till she finished the top of the little tree.”]
I. A CHRISTMAS DREAM
II. THE CANDY COUNTRY
III. NAUGHTY JOCKO
IV. THE SKIPPING SHOES
VI. ROSY’S JOURNEY
VII. HOW THEY RAN AWAY
VIII. THE FAIRY BOX
IX. A HOLE IN THE WALL
X. THE PIGGY GIRL
[Illustration: She actually stood in “a grove of Christmas trees.”]
A CHRISTMAS DREAM, AND HOW IT CAME TRUE.
“I’m so tired of Christmas I wish there never would be another one!” exclaimed a discontented-looking little girl, as she sat idly watching her mother arrange a pile of gifts two days before they were to be given.
“Why, Effie, what a dreadful thing to say! You are as bad as old Scrooge; and I’m afraid something will happen to you, as it did to him, if you don’t care for dear Christmas,” answered mamma, almost dropping the silver horn she was filling with delicious candies.
“Who was Scrooge? What happened to him?” asked Effie, with a glimmer of interest in her listless face, as she picked out the sourest lemon-drop she could find; for nothing sweet suited her just then.
“He was one of Dickens’s best people, and you can read the charming story some day. He hated Christmas until a strange dream showed him how dear and beautiful it was, and made a better man of him.”
“I shall read it; for I like dreams, and have a great many curious ones myself. But they don’t keep me from being tired of Christmas,” said Effie, poking discontentedly among the sweeties for something worth eating.
“Why are you tired of what should be the happiest time of all the year?” asked mamma, anxiously.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t be if I had something new. But it is always the same, and there isn’t any more surprise about it. I always find heaps of goodies in my stocking. Don’t like some of them, and soon get tired of those I do like. We always have a great dinner, and I eat too much, and feel ill next day. Then there is a Christmas tree somewhere, with a doll on top, or a stupid old Santa Claus, and children dancing and screaming over bonbons and toys that break, and shiny things that are of no use. Really, mamma, I’ve had so many Christmases all alike that I don’t think I _can_ bear another one.” And Effie laid herself flat on the sofa, as if the mere idea was too much for her.
Her mother laughed at her despair, but was sorry to see her little girl so discontented, when she had everything to make her happy, and had known but ten Christmas days.
“Suppose we don’t give you _any_ presents at all,–how would that suit you?” asked mamma, anxious to please her spoiled child.
“I should like one large and splendid one, and one dear little one, to remember some very nice person by,” said Effie, who was a fanciful little body, full of odd whims and notions, which her friends loved to gratify, regardless of time, trouble, or money; for she was the last of three little girls, and very dear to all the family.
“Well, my darling, I will see what I can do to please you, and not say a word until all is ready. If I could only get a new idea to start with!” And mamma went on tying up her pretty bundles with a thoughtful face, while Effie strolled to the window to watch the rain that kept her in-doors and made her dismal.
“Seems to me poor children have better times than rich ones. I can’t go out, and there is a girl about my age splashing along, without any maid to fuss about rubbers and cloaks and umbrellas and colds. I wish I was a beggar-girl.”
“Would you like to be hungry, cold, and ragged, to beg all day, and sleep on an ash-heap at night?” asked mamma, wondering what would come next.
“Cinderella did, and had a nice time in the end. This girl out here has a basket of scraps on her arm, and a big old shawl all round her, and doesn’t seem to care a bit, though the water runs out of the toes of her boots. She goes paddling along, laughing at the rain, and eating a cold potato as if it tasted nicer than the chicken and ice-cream I had for dinner. Yes, I do think poor children are happier than rich ones.”
“So do I, sometimes. At the Orphan Asylum today I saw two dozen merry little souls who have no parents, no home, and no hope of Christmas beyond a stick of candy or a cake. I wish you had been there to see how happy they were, playing with the old toys some richer children had sent them.”
“You may give them all mine; I’m so tired of them I never want to see them again,” said Effie, turning from the window to the pretty baby-house full of everything a child’s heart could desire.
“I will, and let you begin again with something you will not tire of, if I can only find it.” And mamma knit her brows trying to discover some grand surprise for this child who didn’t care for Christmas.
Nothing more was said then; and wandering off to the library, Effie found “A Christmas Carol,” and curling herself up in the sofa corner, read it all before tea. Some of it she did not understand; but she laughed and cried over many parts of the charming story, and felt better without knowing why.
All the evening she thought of poor Tiny Tim, Mrs. Cratchit with the pudding, and the stout old gentleman who danced so gayly that “his legs twinkled in the air.” Presently bedtime arrived.
“Come, now, and toast your feet,” said Effie’s nurse, “while I do your pretty hair and tell stories.”
“I’ll have a fairy tale to-night, a very interesting one,” commanded Effie, as she put on her blue silk wrapper and little fur-lined slippers to sit before the fire and have her long curls brushed.
So Nursey told her best tales; and when at last the child lay down under her lace curtains, her head was full of a curious jumble of Christmas elves, poor children, snow-storms, sugarplums, and surprises. So it is no wonder that she dreamed all night; and this was the dream, which she never quite forgot.
She found herself sitting on a stone, in the middle of a great field, all alone. The snow was falling fast, a bitter wind whistled by, and night was coming on. She felt hungry, cold, and tired, and did not know where to go nor what to do.
“I wanted to be a beggar-girl, and now I am one; but I don’t like it, and wish somebody would come and take care of me. I don’t know who I am, and I think I must be lost,” thought Effie, with the curious interest one takes in one’s self in dreams.
But the more she thought about it, the more bewildered she felt. Faster fell the snow, colder blew the wind, darker grew the night; and poor Effie made up her mind that she was quite forgotten and left to freeze alone. The tears were chilled on her cheeks, her feet felt like icicles, and her heart died within her, so hungry, frightened, and forlorn was she. Laying her head on her knees, she gave herself up for lost, and sat there with the great flakes fast turning her to a little white mound, when suddenly the sound of music reached her, and starting up, she looked and listened with all her eyes and ears.
Far away a dim light shone, and a voice was heard singing. She tried to run toward the welcome glimmer, but could not stir, and stood like a small statue of expectation while the light drew nearer, and the sweet words of the song grew clearer.
From our happy home
Through the world we roam
One week in all the year,
Making winter spring
With the joy we bring,
For Christmas-tide is here.
Now the eastern star
Shines from afar
To light the poorest home;
Hearts warmer grow,
Gifts freely flow,
For Christmas-tide has come.
Now gay trees rise
Before young eyes,
Abloom with tempting cheer;
Blithe voices sing,
And blithe bells ring,
For Christmas-tide is here.
Oh, happy chime,
Oh, blessed time,
That draws us all so near!
“Welcome, dear day,”
All creatures say,
For Christmas-tide is here.
A child’s voice sang, a child’s hand carried the little candle; and in the circle of soft light it shed, Effie saw a pretty child coming to her through the night and snow. A rosy, smiling creature, wrapped in white fur, with a wreath of green and scarlet holly on its shining hair, the magic candle in one hand, and the other outstretched as if to shower gifts and warmly press all other hands.
Effie forgot to speak as this bright vision came nearer, leaving no trace of footsteps in the snow, only lighting the way with its little candle, and filling the air with the music of its song.
“Dear child, you are lost, and I have come to find you,” said the stranger, taking Effie’s cold hands in his, with a smile like sunshine, while every holly berry glowed like a little fire.
“Do you know me?” asked Effie, feeling no fear, but a great gladness, at his coming.
“I know all children, and go to find them; for this is my holiday, and I gather them from all parts of the world to be merry with me once a year.”
“Are you an angel?” asked Effie, looking for the wings.
“No; I am a Christmas spirit, and live with my mates in a pleasant place, getting ready for our holiday, when we are let out to roam about the world, helping make this a happy time for all who will let us in. Will you come and see how we work?”
“I will go anywhere with you. Don’t leave me again,” cried Effie, gladly.
“First I will make you comfortable. That is what we love to do. You are cold, and you shall be warm, hungry, and I will feed you; sorrowful, and I will make you gay.”
With a wave of his candle all three miracles were wrought,–for the snow- flakes turned to a white fur cloak and hood on Effie’s head and shoulders, a bowl of hot soup came sailing to her lips, and vanished when she had eagerly drunk the last drop; and suddenly the dismal field changed to a new world so full of wonders that all her troubles were forgotten in a minute.
Bells were ringing so merrily that it was hard to keep from dancing. Green garlands hung on the walls, and every tree was a Christmas tree full of toys, and blazing with candles that never went out.
In one place many little spirits sewed like mad on warm clothes, turning off work faster than any sewing-machine ever invented, and great piles were made ready to be sent to poor people. Other busy creatures packed money into purses, and wrote checks which they sent flying away on the wind,–a lovely kind of snow-storm to fall into a world below full of poverty.
Older and graver spirits were looking over piles of little books, in which the records of the past year were kept, telling how different people had spent it, and what sort of gifts they deserved. Some got peace, some disappointment, some remorse and sorrow, some great joy and hope. The rich had generous thoughts sent them; the poor, gratitude and contentment. Children had more love and duty to parents; and parents renewed patience, wisdom, and satisfaction for and in their children. No one was forgotten.
“Please tell me what splendid place this is?” asked Effie, as soon as she could collect her wits after the first look at all these astonishing things.
“This is the Christmas world; and here we work all the year round, never tired of getting ready for the happy day. See, these are the saints just setting off; for some have far to go, and the children must not be disappointed.”
As he spoke the spirit pointed to four gates, out of which four great sleighs were just driving, laden with toys, while a jolly old Santa Claus sat in the middle of each, drawing on his mittens and tucking up his wraps for a long cold drive.
“Why, I thought there was only one Santa Claus, and even he was a humbug,” cried Effie, astonished at the sight.
“Never give up your faith in the sweet old stones, even after you come to see that they are only the pleasant shadow of a lovely truth.”
Just then the sleighs went off with a great jingling of bells and pattering of reindeer hoofs, while all the spirits gave a cheer that was heard in the lower world, where people said, “Hear the stars sing.”
“I never will say there isn’t any Santa Claus again. Now, show me more.”
“You will like to see this place, I think, and may learn something here perhaps”
The spirit smiled as he led the way to a little door, through which Effie peeped into a world of dolls. Baby-houses were in full blast, with dolls of all sorts going on like live people. Waxen ladies sat in their parlors elegantly dressed; black dolls cooked in the kitchens; nurses walked out with the bits of dollies; and the streets were full of tin soldiers marching, wooden horses prancing, express wagons rumbling, and little men hurrying to and fro. Shops were there, and tiny people buying legs of mutton, pounds of tea, mites of clothes, and everything dolls use or wear or want.
But presently she saw that in some ways the dolls improved upon the manners and customs of human beings, and she watched eagerly to learn why they did these things. A fine Paris doll driving in her carriage took up a black worsted Dinah who was hobbling along with a basket of clean clothes, and carried her to her journey’s end, as if it were the proper thing to do. Another interesting china lady took off her comfortable red cloak and put it round a poor wooden creature done up in a paper shift, and so badly painted that its face would have sent some babies into fits.
“Seems to me I once knew a rich girl who didn’t give her things to poor girls. I wish I could remember who she was, and tell her to be as kind as that china doll,” said Effie, much touched at the sweet way the pretty creature wrapped up the poor fright, and then ran off in her little gray gown to buy a shiny fowl stuck on a wooden platter for her invalid mother’s dinner.
“We recall these things to people’s minds by dreams. I think the girl you speak of won’t forget this one.” And the spirit smiled, as if he enjoyed some joke which she did not see.
A little bell rang as she looked, and away scampered the children into the red-and-green school-house with the roof that lifted up, so one could see how nicely they sat at their desks with mites of books, or drew on the inch-square blackboards with crumbs of chalk.
“They know their lessons very well, and are as still as mice. We make a great racket at our school, and get bad marks every day. I shall tell the girls they had better mind what they do, or their dolls will be better scholars than they are,” said Effie, much impressed, as she peeped in and saw no rod in the hand of the little mistress, who looked up and shook her head at the intruder, as if begging her to go away before the order of the school was disturbed.
Effie retired at once, but could not resist one look in at the window of a fine mansion, where the family were at dinner, the children behaved so well at table, and never grumbled a bit when their mamma said they could not have any more fruit.
“Now, show me something else,” she said, as they came again to the low door that led out of Doll-land.
“You have seen how we prepare for Christmas; let me show you where we love best to send our good and happy gifts,” answered the spirit, giving her his hand again.
“I know. I’ve seen ever so many,” began Effie, thinking of her own Christmases.
“No, you have never seen what I will show you. Come away, and remember what you see to-night.”
Like a flash that bright world vanished, and Effie found herself in a part of the city she had never seen before. It was far away from the gayer places, where every store was brilliant with lights and full of pretty things, and every house wore a festival air, while people hurried to and fro with merry greetings. It was down among the dingy streets where the poor lived, and where there was no making ready for Christmas.
Hungry women looked in at the shabby shops, longing to buy meat and bread, but empty pockets forbade. Tipsy men drank up their wages in the bar- rooms; and in many cold dark chambers little children huddled under the thin blankets, trying to forget their misery in sleep.
No nice dinners filled the air with savory smells, no gay trees dropped toys and bonbons into eager hands, no little stockings hung in rows beside the chimney-piece ready to be filled, no happy sounds of music, gay voices, and dancing feet were heard; and there were no signs of Christmas anywhere.
“Don’t they have any in this place?” asked Effie, shivering, as she held fast the spirit’s hand, following where he led her.
“We come to bring it. Let me show you our best workers.” And the spirit pointed to some sweet-faced men and women who came stealing into the poor houses, working such beautiful miracles that Effie could only stand and watch.
Some slipped money into the empty pockets, and sent the happy mothers to buy all the comforts they needed; others led the drunken men out of temptation, and took them home to find safer pleasures there. Fires were kindled on cold hearths, tables spread as if by magic, and warm clothes wrapped round shivering limbs. Flowers suddenly bloomed in the chambers of the sick; old people found themselves remembered; sad hearts were consoled by a tender word, and wicked ones softened by the story of Him who forgave all sin.
But the sweetest work was for the children; and Effie held her breath to watch these human fairies hang up and fill the little stockings without which a child’s Christmas is not perfect, putting in things that once she would have thought very humble presents, but which now seemed beautiful and precious because these poor babies had nothing.
“That is so beautiful! I wish I could make merry Christmases as these good people do, and be loved and thanked as they are,” said Effie, softly, as she watched the busy men and women do their work and steal away without thinking of any reward but their own satisfaction.
“You can if you will. I have shown you the way. Try it, and see how happy your own holiday will be hereafter.”
As he spoke, the spirit seemed to put his arms about her, and vanished with a kiss.
“Oh, stay and show me more!” cried Effie, trying to hold him fast.
“Darling, wake up, and tell me why you are smiling in your sleep,” said a voice in her ear; and opening her eyes, there was mamma bending over her, and morning sunshine streaming into the room.
“Are they all gone? Did you hear the bells? Wasn’t it splendid?” she asked, rubbing her eyes, and looking about her for the pretty child who was so real and sweet.
“You have been dreaming at a great rate,–talking in your sleep, laughing, and clapping your hands as if you were cheering some one. Tell me what was so splendid,” said mamma, smoothing the tumbled hair and lifting up the sleepy head.
Then, while she was being dressed, Effie told her dream, and Nursey thought it very wonderful; but mamma smiled to see how curiously things the child had thought, read, heard, and seen through the day were mixed up in her sleep.
“The spirit said I could work lovely miracles if I tried; but I don’t know how to begin, for I have no magic candle to make feasts appear, and light up groves of Christmas trees, as he did,” said Effie, sorrowfully.
“Yes, you have. We will do it! we will do it!” And clapping her hands, mamma suddenly began to dance all over the room as if she had lost her wits.
“How? how? You must tell me, mamma,” cried Effie, dancing after her, and ready to believe anything possible when she remembered the adventures of the past night.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!–the new idea. A splendid one, if I can only carry it out!” And mamma waltzed the little girl round till her curls flew wildly in the air, while Nursey laughed as if she would die.
“Tell me! tell me!” shrieked Effie. “No, no; it is a surprise,–a grand surprise for Christmas day!” sung mamma, evidently charmed with her happy thought. “Now, come to breakfast; for we must work like bees if we want to play spirits tomorrow. You and Nursey will go out shopping, and get heaps of things, while I arrange matters behind the scenes.”
They were running downstairs as mamma spoke, and Effie called out breathlessly,–
“It won’t be a surprise; for I know you are going to ask some poor children here, and have a tree or something. It won’t be like my dream; for they had ever so many trees, and more children than we can find anywhere.”
“There will be no tree, no party, no dinner, in this house at all, and no presents for you. Won’t that be a surprise?” And mamma laughed at Effie’s bewildered face.
“Do it. I shall like it, I think; and I won’t ask any questions, so it will all burst upon me when the time comes,” she said; and she ate her breakfast thoughtfully, for this really would be a new sort of Christmas.
All that morning Effie trotted after Nursey in and out of shops, buying dozens of barking dogs, woolly lambs, and squeaking birds; tiny tea-sets, gay picture-books, mittens and hoods, dolls and candy. Parcel after parcel was sent home; but when Effie returned she saw no trace of them, though she peeped everywhere. Nursey chuckled, but wouldn’t give a hint, and went out again in the afternoon with a long list of more things to buy; while Effie wandered forlornly about the house, missing the usual merry stir that went before the Christmas dinner and the evening fun.
As for mamma, she was quite invisible all day, and came in at night so tired that she could only lie on the sofa to rest, smiling as if some very pleasant thought made her happy in spite of weariness.
“Is the surprise going on all right?” asked Effie, anxiously; for it seemed an immense time to wait till another evening came.
“Beautifully! better than I expected; for several of my good friends are helping, or I couldn’t have done it as I wish. I know you will like it, dear, and long remember this new way of making Christmas merry.”
Mamma gave her a very tender kiss, and Effie went to bed.
* * * * *
The next day was a very strange one; for when she woke there was no stocking to examine, no pile of gifts under her napkin, no one said “Merry Christmas!” to her, and the dinner was just as usual to her. Mamma vanished again, and Nursey kept wiping her eyes and saying: “The dear things! It’s the prettiest idea I ever heard of. No one but your blessed ma could have done it.”
“Do stop, Nursey, or I shall go crazy because I don’t know the secret!” cried Effie, more than once; and she kept her eye on the clock, for at seven in the evening the surprise was to come off.
The longed-for hour arrived at last, and the child was too excited to ask questions when Nurse put on her cloak and hood, led her to the carriage, and they drove away, leaving their house the one dark and silent one in the row.
“I feel like the girls in the fairy tales who are led off to strange places and see fine things,” said Effie, in a whisper, as they jingled through the gay streets.
“Ah, my deary, it _is_ like a fairy tale, I do assure you, and you _will_ see finer things than most children will tonight. Steady, now, and do just as I tell you, and don’t say one word whatever you see,” answered Nursey, quite quivering with excitement as she patted a large box in her lap, and nodded and laughed with twinkling eyes.
They drove into a dark yard, and Effie was led through a back door to a little room, where Nurse coolly proceeded to take off not only her cloak and hood, but her dress and shoes also. Effie stared and bit her lips, but kept still until out of the box came a little white fur coat and boots, a wreath of holly leaves and berries, and a candle with a frill of gold paper round it. A long “Oh!” escaped her then; and when she was dressed and saw herself in the glass, she started back, exclaiming, “Why, Nursey, I look like the spirit in my dream!”
“So you do; and that’s the part you are to play, my pretty! Now whist, while I blind your eyes and put you in your place.”
“Shall I be afraid?” whispered Effie, full of wonder; for as they went out she heard the sound of many voices, the tramp of many feet, and, in spite of the bandage, was sure a great light shone upon her when she stopped.
“You needn’t be; I shall stand close by, and your ma will be there.”
After the handkerchief was tied about her eyes, Nurse led Effie up some steps, and placed her on a high platform, where something like leaves touched her head, and the soft snap of lamps seemed to fill the air.
Music began as soon as Nurse clapped her hands, the voices outside sounded nearer, and the tramp was evidently coming up the stairs.
“Now, my precious, look and see how you and your dear ma have made a merry Christmas for them that needed it!”
Off went the bandage; and for a minute Effie really did think she was asleep again, for she actually stood in “a grove of Christmas trees,” all gay and shining as in her vision. Twelve on a side, in two rows down the room, stood the little pines, each on its low table; and behind Effie a taller one rose to the roof, hung with wreaths of popcorn, apples, oranges, horns of candy, and cakes of all sorts, from sugary hearts to gingerbread Jumbos. On the smaller trees she saw many of her own discarded toys and those Nursey bought, as well as heaps that seemed to have rained down straight from that delightful Christmas country where she felt as if she was again.
“How splendid! Who is it for? What is that noise? Where is mamma?” cried Effie, pale with pleasure and surprise, as she stood looking down the brilliant little street from her high place.
Before Nurse could answer, the doors at the lower end flew open, and in marched twenty-four little blue-gowned orphan girls, singing sweetly, until amazement changed the song to cries of joy and wonder as the shining spectacle appeared. While they stood staring with round eyes at the wilderness of pretty things about them, mamma stepped up beside Effie, and holding her hand fast to give her courage, told the story of the dream in a few simple words, ending in this way:–
“So my little girl wanted to be a Christmas spirit too, and make this a happy day for those who had not as many pleasures and comforts as she has. She likes surprises, and we planned this for you all. She shall play the good fairy, and give each of you something from this tree, after which every one will find her own name on a small tree, and can go to enjoy it in her own way. March by, my dears, and let us fill your hands.”
Nobody told them to do it, but all the hands were clapped heartily before a single child stirred; then one by one they came to look up wonderingly at the pretty giver of the feast as she leaned down to offer them great yellow oranges, red apples, bunches of grapes, bonbons, and cakes, till all were gone, and a double row of smiling faces turned toward her as the children filed back to their places in the orderly way they had been taught.
Then each was led to her own tree by the good ladies who had helped mamma with all their hearts; and the happy hubbub that arose would have satisfied even Santa Claus himself,–shrieks of joy, dances of delight, laughter and tears (for some tender little things could not bear so much pleasure at once, and sobbed with mouths full of candy and hands full of toys). How they ran to show one another the new treasures! how they peeped and tasted, pulled and pinched, until the air was full of queer noises, the floor covered with papers, and the little trees left bare of all but candles!
“I don’t think heaven can be any gooder than this,” sighed one small girl, as she looked about her in a blissful maze, holding her full apron with one hand, while she luxuriously carried sugar-plums to her mouth with the other.
“Is that a truly angel up there?” asked another, fascinated by the little white figure with the wreath on its shining hair, who in some mysterious way had been the cause of all this merry-making.
“I wish I dared to go and kiss her for this splendid party,” said a lame child, leaning on her crutch, as she stood near the steps, wondering how it seemed to sit in a mother’s lap, as Effie was doing, while she watched the happy scene before her.
Effie heard her, and remembering Tiny Tim, ran down and put her arms about the pale child, kissing the wistful face, as she said sweetly, “You may; but mamma deserves the thanks. She did it all; I only dreamed about it.”
Lame Katy felt as if “a truly angel” was embracing her, and could only stammer out her thanks, while the other children ran to see the pretty spirit, and touch her soft dress, until she stood in a crowd of blue gowns laughing as they held up their gifts for her to see and admire.
Mamma leaned down and whispered one word to the older girls; and suddenly they all took hands to dance round Effie, singing as they skipped.
It was a pretty sight, and the ladies found it hard to break up the happy revel; but it was late for small people, and too much fun is a mistake. So the girls fell into line, and marched before Effie and mamma again, to say goodnight with such grateful little faces that the eyes of those who looked grew dim with tears. Mamma kissed every one; and many a hungry childish heart felt as if the touch of those tender lips was their best gift. Effie shook so many small hands that her own tingled; and when Katy came she pressed a small doll into Effie’s hand, whispering, “You didn’t have a single present, and we had lots. Do keep that; it’s the prettiest thing I got.”
“I will,” answered Effie, and held it fast until the last smiling face was gone, the surprise all over, and she safe in her own bed, too tired and happy for anything but sleep.
“Mamma, it was a beautiful surprise, and I thank you so much! I don’t see how you did it; but I like it best of all the Christmases I ever had, and mean to make one every year. I had my splendid big present, and here is the dear little one to keep for love of poor Katy; so even that part of my wish came true.”
And Effie fell asleep with a happy smile on her lips, her one humble gift still in her hand, and a new love for Christmas in her heart that never changed through a long life spent in doing good.
[Illustration: “Hollo, what do you want?” he asked, staring at her.]
THE CANDY COUNTRY.
“I shall take mamma’s red sun-umbrella, it is so warm, and none of the children at school will have one like it,” said Lily, one day, as she went through the hall.
“The wind is very high; I’m afraid you’ll be blown away if you carry that big thing,” called Nurse from the window, as the red umbrella went bobbing down the garden walk with a small girl under it.
“I wish it would; I always wanted to go up in a balloon,” answered Lily, as she struggled out of the gate.
She got on very well till she came to the bridge and stopped to look over the railing at the water running by so fast, and the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks. Lily was fond of throwing stones at them; it was so funny to watch them tumble, heels over head, splash into the water. Now, when she saw three big fellows close by, she stooped for a stone, and just at that minute a gale of wind nearly took the umbrella out of her hand. She clutched it fast; and away she went like a thistle-down, right up in the air, over river and hill, houses and trees, faster and faster, till her head spun round, her breath was all gone, and she had to let go. The dear red umbrella flew away like a leaf; and Lily fell down, down, till she went crash into a tree which grew in such a curious place that she forgot her fright as she sat looking about her, wondering what part of the world it could be.
The tree looked as if made of glass or colored sugar; for she could see through the red cherries, the green leaves, and the brown branches. An agreeable smell met her nose; and she said at once, as any child would, “I smell candy!” She picked a cherry and ate it. Oh, how good it was!–all sugar and no stone. The next discovery was such a delightful one that she nearly fell off her perch; for by touching her tongue here and there, she found that the whole tree was made of candy. Think what fun to sit and break off twigs of barley sugar, candied cherries, and leaves that tasted like peppermint and sassafras!
Lily rocked and ate till she finished the top of the little tree; then she climbed down and strolled along, making more surprising and agreeable discoveries as she went.
What looked like snow under her feet was white sugar; the rocks were lumps of chocolate, the flowers of all colors and tastes; and every sort of fruit grew on these delightful trees. Little white houses soon appeared; and here lived the dainty candy-people, all made of the best sugar, and painted to look like real people.
Dear little men and women, looking as if they had stepped off of wedding cakes and bonbons, went about in their gay sugar clothes, laughing and talking in the sweetest voices. Bits of babies rocked in open-work cradles, and sugar boys and girls played with sugar toys in the most natural way. Carriages rolled along the jujube streets, drawn by the red and yellow barley horses we all love so well; cows fed in the green fields, and sugar birds sang in the trees.
Lily listened, and in a moment she understood what the song said,–
Come, come and eat,
Dear little girls
With yellow curls;
For here you’ll find
Sweets to your mind.
On every tree
Sugar-plums you’ll see;
In every dell
Grows the caramel.
Over every wall
Where our river goes
Under your feet
Lies sugar sweet;
Over your head
Grow almonds red.
Our lily and rose
Are not for the nose;
Our flowers we pluck
To eat or suck
And, oh! what bliss
When two friends kiss,
For they honey sip
From lip to lip!
And all you meet,
In house or street,
At work or play,
Sweethearts are they.
So, little dear,
Pray feel no fear;
Go where you will;
Eat, eat your fill.
Here is a feast
From west to east;
And you can say,
Ere you go away,
‘At last I stand
In dear Candy-land,
And no more can stuff;
For once I’ve enough.’
“That is the most interesting song I ever heard,” said Lily, clapping her sticky hands and dancing along toward a fine palace of white cream candy, with pillars of striped peppermint stick, and a roof of frosting that made it look like the Milan Cathedral.
“I’ll live here, and eat candy all day long, with no tiresome school or patchwork to spoil my fun,” said Lily.
So she ran up the chocolate steps into the pretty rooms, where all the chairs and tables were of different colored candies, and the beds of spun sugar. A fountain of lemonade supplied drink; and floors of ice-cream that never melted kept people and things from sticking together, as they would have done had it been warm.
For a long while Lily was quite happy, going about tasting so many different kinds of sweeties, talking to the little people, who were very amiable, and finding out curious things about them and their country.
The babies were made of plain sugar, but the grown people had different flavors. The young ladies were flavored with violet, rose, and orange; the gentlemen were apt to have cordials of some sort inside of them, as she found when she ate one now and then slyly, and got her tongue bitten by the hot, strong taste as a punishment The old people tasted of peppermint, clove, and such comfortable things, good for pain; but the old maids had lemon, hoarhound, flag-root, and all sorts of sour, bitter things in them, and did not get eaten much. Lily soon learned to know the characters of her new friends by a single taste, and some she never touched but once. The dear babies melted in her mouth, and the delicately flavored young ladies she was very fond of. Dr. Ginger was called to her more than once when so much candy made her teeth ache, and she found him a very hot- tempered little man; but he stopped the pain, so she was glad to see him.
A lime-drop boy and a little pink checker-berry girl were her favorite playmates; and they had fine times making mud-pies by scraping the chocolate rocks and mixing this dust with honey from the wells near by. These they could eat; and Lily thought this much better than throwing away the pies, as she had to do at home. They had candy-pulls very often, and made swings of long loops of molasses candy, and bird’s-nests with almond eggs, out of which came birds who sang sweetly. They played football with big bull’s-eyes, sailed in sugar boats on lakes of syrup, fished in rivers of molasses, and rode the barley horses all over the country.
Lily discovered that it never rained, but snowed white sugar. There was no sun, as it would have been too hot; but a large yellow lozenge made a nice moon, and red and white comfits were the stars.
The people all lived on sugar, and never quarrelled. No one was ill; and if any got broken, as sometimes happened with such brittle creatures, they just stuck the parts together and were all right again. The way they grew old was to get thinner and thinner till there was danger of their vanishing. Then the friends of the old person put him in a neat coffin, and carried him to the great golden urn which stood in their largest temple, always full of a certain fine syrup; and here he was dipped and dipped till he was stout and strong again, and went home to enjoy himself for a long time as good as new.
This was very interesting to Lily, and she went to many funerals. But the weddings were better still; for the lovely white brides were so sweet Lily longed to eat them. The feasts were delicious; and everybody went in their best clothes, and danced at the ball till they got so warm half-a-dozen would stick together and have to be taken to the ice-cream room to cool off. Then the little pair would drive away in a fine carriage with white horses to a new palace in some other part of the country, and Lily would have another pleasant place to visit.
But by and by, when she had seen everything, and eaten so much sweet stuff that at last she longed for plain bread and butter, she began to get cross, as children always do when they live on candy; and the little people wished she would go away, for they were afraid of her. No wonder, when she would catch up a dear sugar baby and eat him, or break some respectable old grandmamma all into bits because she reproved her for naughty ways. Lily calmly sat down on the biggest church, crushing it flat, and even tried to poke the moon out of the sky in a pet one day. The king ordered her to go home; but she said, “I won’t!” and bit his head off, crown and all.
Such a wail went up at this awful deed that she ran away out of the city, fearing some one would put poison in her candy, since she had no other food.
“I suppose I shall get somewhere if I keep walking; and I can’t starve, though I hate the sight of this horrid stuff,” she said to herself, as she hurried over the mountains of Gibraltar Rock that divided the city of Saccharissa from the great desert of brown sugar that lay beyond.
Lily marched bravely on for a long time, and saw at last a great smoke in the sky, smelt a spicy smell, and felt a hot wind blowing toward her.
“I wonder if there are sugar savages here, roasting and eating some poor traveller like me,” she said, thinking of Robinson Crusoe and other wanderers in strange lands.
She crept carefully along till she saw a settlement of little huts very like mushrooms, for they were made of cookies set on lumps of the brown sugar; and queer people, looking as if made of gingerbread, were working very busily round several stoves which seemed to bake at a great rate.
“I’ll creep nearer and see what sort of people they are before I show myself,” said Lily, going into a grove of spice-trees, and sitting down on a stone which proved to be the plummy sort of cake we used to call Brighton Rock.
Presently one of the tallest men came striding toward the trees with a pan, evidently after spice; and before she could run, he saw Lily.
“Hollo, what do you want?” he asked, staring at her with his black currant eyes, while he briskly picked the bark off a cinnamon-tree.
“I’m travelling, and would like to know what place this is, if you please,” answered Lily, very politely, being a little frightened.
“Cake-land. Where do you come from?” asked the gingerbread man, in a crisp tone of voice.
“I was blown into the Candy country, and have been there a long time; but I got tired of it, and ran away to find something better.”
“Sensible child!” and the man smiled till Lily thought his cheeks would crumble. “You’ll get on better here with us Brownies than with the lazy Bonbons, who never work and are all for show. They won’t own us, though we are all related through our grandparents Sugar and Molasses. We are busy folks; so they turn up their noses and don’t speak when we meet at parties. Poor creatures, silly and sweet and unsubstantial! I pity ’em.”
“Could I make you a visit? I’d like to see how you live, and what you do. I’m sure it must be interesting,” said Lily, picking herself up after a tumble, having eaten nearly all the stone, she was so hungry.
“I know you will. Come on! I can talk while I work.” And the funny gingerbread man trotted off toward his kitchen, full of pans, rolling- pins, and molasses jugs.
“Sit down. I shall be at leisure as soon as this batch is baked. There are still some wise people down below who like gingerbread, and I have my hands full,” he said, dashing about, stirring, rolling out, and slapping the brown dough into pans, which he whisked into the oven and out again so fast that Lily knew there must be magic about it somewhere.
Every now and then he threw her a delicious cooky warm from the oven. She liked the queer fellow, and presently began to talk, being very curious about this country.
“What is your name, sir?”
Lily thought it a good one; for he was very quick, and she fancied he could be short and sharp if he liked.
“Where does all this cake go to?” she asked, after watching the other kitchens full of workers, who were all of different kinds of cake, and each set of cooks made its own sort.
“I’ll show you by and by,” answered Snap, beginning to pile up the heaps of gingerbread on a little car that ran along a track leading to some unknown storeroom, Lily thought.
“Don’t you get tired of doing this all the time?”
“Yes; but I want to be promoted, and I never shall be till I’ve done my best, and won the prize here.”
“Oh, tell me about it! What is the prize, and how are you promoted? Is this a cooking-school?”
“Yes; the prize for best gingerbread is a cake of condensed yeast. That puts a soul into me, and I begin to rise till I am able to go over the hills yonder into the blessed land of bread, and be one of the happy creatures who are always wholesome, always needed, and without which the world below would be in a bad way.”
“Bless me! that is the queerest thing I’ve heard yet. But I don’t wonder you want to go; I’m tired of sweets myself, and long for a good piece of bread, though I used to want cake and candy at home.”
“Ah, my dear, you’ll learn a good deal here; and you are lucky not to have got into the clutches of Giant Dyspepsia, who always gets people if they eat too much of such rubbish and scorn wholesome bread. I leave my ginger behind when I go, and get white and round and beautiful, as you will see. The Gingerbread family have never been as foolish as some of the other cakes. Wedding is the worst; such extravagance in the way of wine and spice and fruit I never saw, and such a mess to eat when it’s done! I don’t wonder people get sick; serves ’em right.” And Snap flung down a pan with such a bang that it made Lily jump.
“Sponge cake isn’t bad, is it? Mamma lets me eat it, but I like frosted pound better,” she said, looking over to the next kitchen, where piles of that sort of cake were being iced.
“Poor stuff. No substance. Ladies’ fingers will do for babies, but pound has too much butter ever to be healthy. Let it alone, and eat cookies or seed-cakes, my dear. Now, come along; I’m ready.” And Snap trundled away his car-load at a great pace.
Lily ran behind to pick up whatever fell, and looked about her as she went, for this was certainly a very queer country. Lakes of eggs all beaten up, and hot springs of saleratus foamed here and there ready for use. The earth was brown sugar or ground spice; and the only fruits were raisins, dried currants, citron, and lemon peel. It was a very busy place; for every one cooked all the time, and never failed and never seemed tired, though they got so hot that they only wore sheets of paper for clothes. There were piles of it to put over the cake, so that it shouldn’t burn; and they made cook’s white caps and aprons of it, and looked very nice. A large clock made of a flat pancake, with cloves to mark the hours and two toothpicks for hands, showed them how long to bake things; and in one place an ice wall was built round a lake of butter, which they cut in lumps as they wanted it.
“Here we are. Now, stand away while I pitch ’em down,” said Snap, stopping at last before a hole in the ground where a dumbwaiter hung ready, with a name over it.
There were many holes all round, and many waiters, each with its name; and Lily was amazed when she read “Weber,” “Copeland,” “Dooling,” and others, which she knew very well.
Over Snap’s place was the name “Newmarch;” and Lily said, “Why, that’s where mamma gets her hard gingerbread, and Weber’s is where we go for ice- cream. Do _you_ make cake for them?”
“Yes, but no one knows it. It’s one of the secrets of the trade. We cook for all the confectioners, and people think the good things come out of the cellars under their saloons. Good joke, isn’t it?” And Snap laughed till a crack came in his neck and made him cough.
Lily was so surprised she sat down on a warm queen’s cake that happened to be near, and watched Snap send down load after load of gingerbread to be eaten by children, who would have liked it much better if they had only known where it came from, as she did.
As she sat, the clatter of many spoons, the smell of many dinners, and the sound of many voices calling, “One vanilla, two strawberries, and a Charlotte Russe,” “Three stews, cup coffee, dry toast,” “Roast chicken and apple without,” came up the next hole, which was marked “Copeland.”
“Dear me! it seems as if I was there,” said Lily, longing to hop down, but afraid of the bump at the other end.
“I’m done. Come along, I’ll ride you back,” called Snap, tossing the last cooky after the dumb-waiter as it went slowly out of sight with its spicy load.
“I wish you’d teach me to cook. It looks great fun, and mamma wants me to learn; only our cook hates to have me mess round, and is so cross that I don’t like to try at home,” said Lily, as she went trundling back.
“Better wait till you get to Bread-land, and learn to make that. It’s a great art, and worth knowing. Don’t waste your time on cake, though plain gingerbread isn’t bad to have in the house. I’ll teach you that in a jiffy, if the clock doesn’t strike my hour too soon,” answered Snap, helping her down.
“Why, of my freedom. I never know when I’ve done my task till I’m called by the chimes and go to get my soul,” said Snap, turning his currant eyes anxiously to the clock.
“I hope you _will_ have time.” And Lily fell to work with all her might, after Snap had put on her a paper apron and a cap like his.
It was not hard; for when she was going to make a mistake a spark flew out of the fire and burnt her in time to remind her to look at the receipt, which was a sheet of gingerbread in a frame of pie-crust hung up before her, with the directions written while it was soft and baked in. The third sheet she made came out of the oven spicy, light, and brown; and Snap, giving it one poke, said, “That’s all right. Now you know. Here’s your reward”
He handed her a receipt-book made of thin sheets of sugar-gingerbread held together by a gelatine binding, with her name stamped on the back, and each leaf crimped with a cake-cutter in the most elegant manner.
Lily was charmed with it, but had no time to read all it contained; for just then the clock began to strike, and a chime of bells to ring,–
Go to the head.
Your task is done;
A soul is won.
Take it and go
Where muffins grow,
Where sweet loaves rise
To the very skies,
And biscuits fair
Perfume the air.
Make no delay;
In the sea of flour
Plunge this hour.
Safe in your breast
Let the yeast-cake rest,
Till you rise in joy,
A white bread boy!”
“Ha, ha! I’m free! I’m free!” cried Snap, catching up the silver-covered square that seemed to fall from heaven; and running to a great white sea of flour, he went in head first, holding the yeast-cake clasped to his breast as if his life depended on it.
Lily watched breathlessly, while a curious working and bubbling went on, as if Snap was tumbling about down there like a small earthquake. The other cake-folk stood round the shore with her; for it was a great event, and all were glad that the dear fellow was promoted so soon. Suddenly a cry was heard, and up rose a beautiful white figure on the farther side of the sea. It moved its hand, as if saying “Good-by,” and ran over the hills so fast they had only time to see how plump and fair he was, with a little knob on the top of his head like a crown.
“He’s gone to the happy land, and we shall miss him; but we’ll follow his example and soon find him again,” said a gentle Sponge cake, with a sigh, as all went back to their work; while Lily hurried after Snap, eager to see the new country, which was the best of all.
A delicious odor of fresh bread blew up from the valley as she stood on the hill-top and looked down on the peaceful scene below. Fields of yellow grain waved in the breeze; hop-vines grew from tree to tree; and many windmills whirled their white sails as they ground the different grains into fresh, sweet meal, for the loaves of bread that built the houses like bricks and paved the streets, or in many shapes formed the people, furniture, and animals. A river of milk flowed through the peaceful land, and fountains of yeast rose and fell with a pleasant foam and fizz. The ground was a mixture of many meals, and the paths were golden Indian, which gave a very gay look to the scene. Buckwheat flowers bloomed on their rosy stems, and tall corn-stalks rustled their leaves in the warm air that came from the ovens hidden in the hillsides; for bread needs a slow fire, and an obliging volcano did the baking here.
“What a lovely place!” cried Lily, feeling the charm of the homelike landscape, in spite of the funny plump people moving about.
Two of these figures came running to meet her as she slowly walked down the yellow path from the hill. One was a golden boy, with a beaming face; the other a little girl in a shiny brown cloak, who looked as if she would taste very nice. They each put a warm hand into Lily’s, and the boy said,–
“We are glad to see you. Muffin told us you were coming.”
“Thank you. Who is Muffin?” asked Lily, feeling as if she had seen both these little people before, and liked them.
“He was Ginger Snap once, but he’s a Muffin now. We begin in that way, and work up to the perfect loaf by degrees. My name is Johnny Cake, and she’s Sally Lunn. You know us; so come on and have a race.”
Lily burst out laughing at the idea of playing with these old friends of hers; and all three ran away as fast as they could tear, down the hill, over a bridge, into the middle of the village, where they stopped, panting, and sat down on some very soft rolls to rest.
“What do you all do _here_?” asked Lily, when she got her breath again.
“We farm, we study, we bake, we brew, and are as merry as grigs all day long. It’s school-time now, and we must go; will you come?” said Sally, jumping up as if she liked it.
“Our schools are not like yours; we only study two things,–grain and yeast. I think you’ll like it. We have yeast to-day, and the experiments are very jolly,” added Johnny, trotting off to a tall brown tower of rye and Indian bread, where the school was kept.
Lily never liked to go to school, but she was ashamed to own it; so she went along with Sally, and was so amused with all she saw that she was glad she came. The brown loaf was hollow, and had no roof; and when she asked why they used a ruin, Sally told her to wait and see why they chose strong walls and plenty of room overhead. All round was a circle of very small biscuits like cushions, and on these the Bread-children sat. A square loaf in the middle was the teacher’s desk, and on it lay an ear of wheat, with several bottles of yeast well corked up. The teacher was a pleasant, plump lady from Vienna, very wise, and so famous for her good bread that she was a Professor of Grainology.
When all were seated, she began with the wheat ear, and told them all about it in such an interesting way that Lily felt as if she had never known anything about the bread she ate before. The experiments with the yeast were quite exciting,–for Fraulein Pretzel showed them how it would work till it blew the cork out, and go fizzing up to the sky if it was kept too long; how it would turn sour or flat, and spoil the bread if care was not taken to use it just at the right moment; and how too much would cause the loaf to rise till there was no substance to it.
The children were very bright; for they were fed on the best kinds of oatmeal and Graham bread, with very little white bread or hot cakes to spoil their young stomachs. Hearty, happy boys and girls they were, and their yeasty souls were very lively in them; for they danced and sung, and seemed as bright and gay as if acidity, heaviness, and mould were quite unknown.
Lily was very happy with them, and when school was done went home with Sally and ate the best bread and milk for dinner that she ever tasted. In the afternoon Johnny took her to the cornfield, and showed her how they kept the growing ears free from mildew and worms. Then she went to the bakehouse; and here she found her old friend Muffin hard at work making Parker House rolls, for he was such a good cook he was set to work at once on the lighter kinds of bread.
“Well, isn’t this better than Candy-land or Saccharissa?” he asked, as he rolled and folded his bits of dough with a dab of butter tucked inside.
“Ever so much!” cried Lily. “I feel better already, and mean to learn all I can. Mamma will be so pleased if I can make good bread when I go home. She is rather old-fashioned, and likes me to be a nice housekeeper. I didn’t think bread interesting then, but I do now; and Johnny’s mother is going to teach me to make Indian cakes to-morrow.”
“Glad to hear it. Learn all you can, and tell other people how to make healthy bodies and happy souls by eating good plain food. Not like this, though these rolls are better than cake. I have to work my way up to the perfect loaf, you know; and then, oh, then, I’m a happy thing.”
“What happens then? Do you go on to some other wonderful place?” asked Lily, as Muffin paused with a smile on his face.
“Yes; I am eaten by some wise, good human being, and become a part of him or her. That is immortality and heaven; for I may nourish a poet and help him sing, or feed a good woman who makes the world better for being in it, or be crumbed into the golden porringer of a baby prince who is to rule a kingdom. Isn’t that a noble way to live, and an end worth working for?” asked Muffin, in a tone that made Lily feel as if some sort of fine yeast had got into her, and was setting her brain to work with new thoughts.
“Yes, it is. I suppose all common things are made for that purpose, if we only knew it; and people should be glad to do anything to help the world along, even making good bread in a kitchen,” answered Lily, in a sober way that showed that her little mind was already digesting the new food it had got.
She stayed in Bread-land a long time, and enjoyed and learned a great deal that she never forgot. But at last, when she had made the perfect loaf, she wanted to go home, that her mother might see and taste it.
“I’ve put a good deal of myself into it, and I’d love to think I had given her strength or pleasure by my work,” she said, as she and Sally stood looking at the handsome loaf.
“You can go whenever you like; just take the bread in your hands and wish three times, and you’ll be wherever you say. I’m sorry to have you go, but I don’t wonder you want to see your mother. Don’t forget what you have learned, and you will always be glad you came to us,” said Sally, kissing her good-by.
“Where is Muffin? I can’t go without seeing him, my dear old friend,” answered Lily, looking round for him.
“He is here,” said Sally, touching the loaf. “He was ready to go, and chose to pass into your bread rather than any other; for he said he loved you and would be glad to help feed so good a little girl.”
“How kind of him! I must be careful to grow wise and excellent, else he will be disappointed and have died in vain,” said Lily, touched by his devotion.
Then, bidding them all farewell, she hugged her loaf close, wished three times to be in her own home, and like a flash she was there.
Whether her friends believed the wonderful tale of her adventures I cannot tell; but I know that she was a nice little housekeeper from that day, and made such good bread that other girls came to learn of her. She also grew from a sickly, fretful child into a fine, strong woman, because she ate very little cake and candy, except at Christmas time, when the oldest and the wisest love to make a short visit to Candy-land.
[Illustration: As soon as he was alone, Jocko … jumped on his back.]
“A music-man! a music-man! Run quick, and see if he has got a monkey on his organ,” cried little Neddy, running to the window in a great hurry one day.
Yes; there was the monkey in his blue and red suit, with a funny little cap, and the long tail trailing behind. But he didn’t seem to be a lively monkey; for he sat in a bunch, with his sad face turned anxiously to his master, who kept pulling the chain to make him dance. The stiff collar had made his neck sore; and when the man twitched, the poor thing moaned and put up his little hand to hold the chain. He tried to dance, but was so weak he could only hop a few steps, and stop panting for breath. The cruel man wouldn’t let him rest till Neddy called out,–
“Don’t hurt him; let him come up here and get this cake, and rest while you play. I’ve got some pennies for you.”
So poor Jocko climbed slowly up the trellis, and sat on the window-ledge trying to eat; but he was so tired he went to sleep, and when the man pulled to wake him up, he slipped and fell, and lay as if he were dead. Neddy and his aunt ran down to see if he was killed. The cross man scolded and shook him; but he never moved, and the man said,–
“He is dead. I don’t want him. I will sell him to some one to stuff.”
“No; his heart beats a little. Leave him here a few days, and we will take care of him; and if he gets well, perhaps we will buy him,” said Aunt Jane, who liked to nurse even a sick monkey.
The man said he was going on for a week through the towns near by, and would call and see about it when he came back. Then he went away; and Neddy and aunty put Jocko in a nice basket, and carried him in. The minute the door was shut and he felt safe, the sly fellow peeped out with one eye, and seeing only the kind little boy began to chatter and kick off the shawl; for he was not much hurt, only tired and hungry, and dreadfully afraid of the cruel man who beat and starved him.
Neddy was delighted, and thought it very funny, and helped his aunt take off the stiff collar and put some salve on the sore neck. Then they got milk and cake; and when he had eaten a good dinner, Jocko curled himself up and slept till the next day. He was quite lively in the morning; for when Aunt Jane went to call Neddy, Jocko was not in his basket, and looking round the room for him, she saw the little black thing lying on the boy’s pillow, with his arm round Neddy’s neck like a queer baby.
“My patience! I can’t allow that,” said the old lady, and went to pull Jocko out. But he slipped away like an eel, and crept chattering and burrowing down to the bottom of the bed, holding on to Neddy’s toes, till he waked up, howling that crabs were nipping him.
Then they had a great frolic; and Jocko climbed all over the bed, up on the tall wardrobe, and the shelf over the door, where the image of an angel stood. He patted it, and hugged it, and looked so very funny with his ugly black face by the pretty white one, that Neddy rolled on the floor, and Aunt Jane laughed till her glasses flew off. By and by he came down, and had a nice breakfast, and let them tie a red ribbon over the bandage on his neck. He liked the gay color, and kept going to look in the glass, and grin and chatter at his own image, which he evidently admired.
“Now, he shall go to walk with me, and all the children shall see my new pet,” said Neddy, as he marched off with Jock on his shoulder.
Every one laughed at the funny little fellow with his twinkling eyes, brown hands, and long tail, and Neddy felt very grand till they got to the store; then troubles began. He put Jocko on a table near the door, and told him to stay there while he did his errands. Now, close by was the place where the candy was kept, and Jocko loved sweeties like any girl; so he hopped along, and began to eat whatever he liked. Some boys tried to stop him; and then he got angry at them for pulling his tail, and threw handfuls of sugarplums at them. That was great fun; and the more they laughed and scrambled and poked at him, the faster he showered chocolates, caramels, and peppermints over them, till it looked as if it had rained candy. The man was busy with Neddy at the other end of the store; but when he heard the noise, both ran to see what was the matter. Neither of them could stop naughty Jocko, who liked this game, and ran up on the high shelves among the toys. Then down came little tubs and dolls’ stoves, tin trumpets and cradles, while boxes of leaden soldiers and whole villages flew through the air, smash, bang, rattle, bump, all over the floor. The man scolded, Neddy cried, the boys shouted, and there was a lively time in that shop till a good slapping with a long stick made Jock tumble into a tub of water where some curious fishes lived, and then they caught him.
Neddy was much ashamed, and told the man his aunt would pay for all the broken things. Then he took his naughty pet, and started to go home and tie him up, for it was plain this monkey was not to be trusted. But as soon as they got out, Jocko ran up a tree and dropped on to a load of hay passing underneath. Here he danced and pranced, and had a fine time, throwing off the man’s coat and rake, and eating some of the dinner tied up in a cloth. The crusts of bread and the bones he threw at the horse; this new kind of whip frightened the horse, and he ran away down a steep hill, and upset the hay and broke the cart. Oh, such a time! It was worse than the candy scrape; for the man swore, and the horse was hurt, and people said the monkey ought to be shot, he did so much mischief. Jocko didn’t care a bit; he sat high up in a tree, and chattered and scolded, and swung by his tail, and was so droll that people couldn’t help laughing at him. Poor Neddy cried again, and went home to tell his troubles to Aunt Jane, fearing that it would take all the money in his bank to pay for the damage the bad monkey had done in one hour.
As soon as he was alone Jocko came skipping along, and jumped on his back, and peeped at him, and patted his cheeks, and was so cunning and good Neddy couldn’t whip him; but he shut him up in a closet to punish him.
Jocko was tired; so he went to sleep, and all was quiet till dinner-time. They were ready for the pudding, and Neddy had saved a place for a good plateful, as he liked snow-pudding, when shrieks were heard in the kitchen, and Mary the maid rushed in to say,–
“Oh, ma’am, that horrid beast has spoilt the pudding, and is scaring Katy out of her life!”
They all ran; and there sat that naughty monkey on the table, throwing the nice white snow all over poor cook, till her face looked as if she was ready to be shaved. His own face looked the same, for he had eaten all he wanted while the pudding stood cooling in the pantry. He had crept out of a window in the closet, and had a fine rummage among the sugar-buckets, butter-boxes, and milk-pans.
Kate wailed, and Mary scolded; but Aunt Jane and grandpa laughed, and Neddy chased Jock into the garden with the broom. They had to eat bread and jelly for dessert, and it took the girls a long time to clear up the mess the rascal made.
“We will put his collar and chain on again, and keep him tied up all the time till the man comes,” said Aunt Jane.
“But I can’t catch him,” sighed Neddy, watching the little imp whisk about in the garden among the currant-bushes, chasing hens and tossing green apples round in high glee.
“Sit quietly down somewhere and wait till he is tired; then he will come to you, and you can hold him fast,” said Aunt Jane.
So Neddy waited; and though he was much worried at his new pet’s naughtiness, he enjoyed his pranks like a boy.
Grandpa took naps in the afternoon on the piazza, and he was dozing comfortably when Jocko swung down from the grape-vine by his long tail, and tickled the old gentleman on the nose with a straw. Grandpa sneezed, and opened one eye to brush away the fly as he supposed. Then he went to sleep again, and Jocko dropped a caterpillar on his bald head; this made him open the other eye to see what that soft, creepy thing could be. Neddy couldn’t help laughing, for he often wanted to do just such things, but never dared, because grandpa was a very stern old gentleman, and no one took liberties with him. Jocko wasn’t afraid, however; and presently he crept to the table, stole the glasses lying there, put them on, and taking up the paper held it before him, chattering as if he were reading it, as he had seen people do. Neddy laughed out loud at this, and clapped his hands, Jocko looked so like a little old man, in spite of the tail curled up behind. This time grandpa opened both eyes at once, and stared as if he saw a hobgoblin before him; then he snatched off the spectacles, and caught up his cane, crying angrily,–
“You rascal, how dare you!”
But Jocko tossed the paper in his face, and with one jump lighted on the back of old Tom, the big yellow cat, who lay asleep close by. Scared half out of his wits, Tom spit and bounced; but Jocko held fast to his collar, and had a fine race round the garden, while the girls laughed at the funny sight, and Neddy shouted, “It’s a circus; and there’s the monkey and the pony.” Even grandpa smiled, especially when puss dashed up a tree, and Jock tumbled off. He chased him, and they had a great battle; but Tom’s claws were sharp, and the monkey got a scratch on the nose, and ran crying to Neddy for comfort.
“Now, you naughty fellow, I’ll chain you up, and stop these dreadful tricks. But you are great fun, and I can’t whip you,” said the boy; for he knew what it was to enjoy a holiday, and poor Jocko had not had one for a long time.
Jocko ate some lunch, took a nap in the grass, and then was ready for more frolics. Neddy had fastened him to a tree in the garden, so that he could enjoy the sun and air, and catch grasshoppers if he liked. But Jocko wanted something more; and presently Neddy, who was reading in his hammock on the piazza, heard a great cackling among the hens, and looked up to see the monkey swinging by his tail from a bough, holding the great cock-a- doodle by his splendid tail, while all the twenty hens clucked and cackled with wrath and fear at such a dreadful prank.
“Now, that’s too bad; I _will_ slap him this time,” said Neddy, running to save his handsome bird from destruction. But before he got there poor cocky had pulled his fine tail-feathers all out in his struggles, and when set free was so frightened and mortified that he ran away and hid in the bushes, and the hens went to comfort him.
Neddy gave Jocko a good whipping, and left him looking as meek as a baby, all cuddled up in a little bunch, with his head in his hands as if crying for his naughtiness. But he wasn’t sorry. Oh, dear, no! for in half an hour he had picked every one of the sweet peas Aunt Jane was so fond of, thrown all the tomatoes over the fence, and let the parrot out of his cage. The sight of Polly walking into the parlor with a polite “How are you, ma’am?” sent Aunt Jane to see what was going on. Neddy was fast asleep in the hammock, worn out with his cares; and Jocko, having unhooked his chain, was sitting on the chimney-top of a neighbor’s house, eating corn.
“We shall not live to the end of the week if this sort of thing goes on. I don’t know what to do with the little beast; he’s as bad as an elephant to take care of,” said the poor lady, in despair, as she saw Jocko throw his corncob down on the minister’s hat as that stately gentleman went by.
As none of them could catch him, Miss Jane let him alone till Neddy waked up and could go and find some of the big boys to help him.
Jocko soon left the roof, and skipped in at a window that stood open. It was little Nelly Brown’s play-room, and she had left her pet doll Maud Mabel Rose Matilda very ill in the best bed, while she went down to get a poppy leaf to rub the darling’s cheeks with, because she had a high fever. Jocko took a fancy to the pretty bed, and after turning the play-house topsy-turvy, he pulled poor Maud Mabel Rose Matilda out by her flaxen hair, and stuffing her into the water-pitcher upside down, got into the bed, drew the lace curtains, and prepared to doze deliciously under the pink silk bed-cover.
Up came Nelly, and went at once to the dear invalid, saying in her motherly little voice,–
“Now, my darling child, lie quite still, and I won’t hurt you one bit.”
But when she drew the curtain, instead of the lovely yellow-haired doll in her ruffled nightcap, she saw an ugly little black face staring at her, and a tiny hand holding the sheet fast. Nelly gave one scream, and flew downstairs into the parlor where the Sewing-circle was at work, frightening twenty-five excellent ladies by her cries, as she clung to her mother, wailing,–
“A bogie! a bogie! I saw him, all black; and he snarled at me, and my dolly is gone! What shall I do? oh, what shall I do?”
There was great confusion, for all the ladies talked at once; and it so happened that none of them knew anything about the monkey, therefore they all agreed that Nelly was a foolish child, and had made a fuss about nothing. She cried dismally, and kept saying to her mother,–
“Go and see; it’s in my dolly’s bed,–I found it there, and darling Maudie is gone.”
“We _will_ go and see,” said Mrs. Moses Merryweather,–a stout old lady, who kept her six girls in such good order that _they_ would never have dared to cry if ten monkeys had popped out at them.
Miss Hetty Bumpus, a tall thin maiden lady, with a sharp eye and pointed nose, went with her; but at the door that led to the dining-room both stopped short, and after one look came flying back, calling out together,–
“Mrs. Brown, your supper is spoilt! a dreadful beast has ruined it all!”
Then twenty-five excited ladies flew across the hall to behold Jocko sitting on the great cake in the middle of the table, his feet bathed in cream from the overturned pitcher, while all around lay the ruins of custards, tarts, biscuits, and sauce, not to mention nice napkins made into hay-cocks, spoons, knives, and forks, on the floor, and the best silver teapot in the fireplace.
While Nelly told her tale and the ladies questioned and comforted her, this bad monkey had skipped downstairs and had a delightful party all by himself. He was just scraping the jelly out of a tart when they disturbed him; and knowing that more slaps were in store for him if he stayed, he at once walked calmly down the ravaged table, and vanished out of the window carrying the silver tea-strainer with him to play with.
The ladies had no supper that night; and poor Mrs. Brown sent a note to Aunt Jane, telling her the sad story, and adding that Nelly was quite ill with the fright and the loss of dear Maud Mabel Rose Matilda, drowned in the water-pitcher and forever spoilt.
“John shall go after that man to-morrow, and bring him back to carry this terrible monkey away. I can’t live with him a week; he will cost me a fortune, and wear us all out,” said Aunt Jane, when Jocko was safely shut up in the cellar, after six boys had chased him all over the neighborhood before they caught him.
Neddy was quite willing to let him go; but John was saved his journey, for in the morning poor Jocko was found dead in a trap, where his inquisitive head had been poked to see what the cheese tasted like.
So he was buried by the river, and every one felt much relieved; for the man never came back, thinking Jocko dead when he left him. But he had not lived in vain; for after this day of trial, mischievous Neddy behaved much better, and Aunt Jane could always calm his prankish spirit by saying, as her finger pointed to a little collar and chain hanging on the wall,–
“If you want to act like naughty Jocko, say so, and I’ll tie you up. One monkey is enough for this family.”
[Illustration: Kitty laughed, and began to dance…. Such twirlings and skippings as she made.]
THE SKIPPING SHOES.
Once there was a little girl, named Kitty, who never wanted to do what people asked her. She said “I won’t” and “I can’t,” and did not run at once pleasantly, as obliging children do.
One day her mother gave her a pair of new shoes; and after a fuss about putting them on, Kitty said, as she lay kicking on the floor,–
“I wish these were seven-leagued boots, like Jack the Giant Killer’s, then it would be easy to run errands all the time. Now, I hate to keep trotting, and I don’t like new shoes, and I won’t stir a step.”
Just as she said that, the shoes gave a skip, and set her on her feet so suddenly that it scared all the naughtiness out of her. She stood looking at these curious shoes; and the bright buttons on them seemed to wink at her like eyes, while the heels tapped on the floor a sort of tune. Before she dared to stir, her mother called from the next room,–
“Kitty, run and tell the cook to make a pie for dinner; I forgot it.”
“I don’t want to,” began Kitty, with a whine as usual.
But the words were hardly out of her mouth when the shoes gave one jump, and took her downstairs, through the hall, and landed her at the kitchen door. Her breath was nearly gone; but she gave the message, and turned round, trying to see if the shoes would let her walk at all. They went nicely till she wanted to turn into the china-closet where the cake was. She was forbidden to touch it, but loved to take a bit when she could. Now she found that her feet were fixed fast to the floor, and could not be moved till her father said, as he passed the window close by,–
“You will have time to go to the post-office before school and get my letters.”
“I can’t,” began Kitty; but she found she could, for away went the shoes, out of the house at one bound, and trotted down the street so fast that the maid who ran after her with her hat could not catch her.
“I can’t stop!” cried Kitty; and she did not till the shoes took her straight into the office.
“What’s the hurry to-day?” asked the man, as he saw her without any hat, all rosy and breathless, and her face puckered up as if she did not know whether to laugh or to cry.
“I won’t tell any one about these dreadful shoes, and I’ll take them off as soon as I get home. I hope they will go back slowly, or people will think I’m crazy,” said Kitty to herself, as she took the letters and went away.
The shoes walked nicely along till she came to the bridge; and there she wanted to stop and watch some boys in a boat, forgetting school and her father’s letters. But the shoes wouldn’t stop, though she tried to make them, and held on to the railing as hard as she could. Her feet went on; and when she sat down they still dragged her along so steadily that she had to go, and she got up feeling that there was something very strange about these shoes. The minute she gave up, all went smoothly, and she got home in good time.
“I won’t wear these horrid things another minute,” said Kitty, sitting on the doorstep and trying to unbutton the shoes.
But not a button could she stir, though she got red and angry struggling to do it.
“Time for school; run away, little girl,” called mamma from upstairs, as the clock struck nine.
“I won’t!” said Kitty, crossly.
But she did; for those magic shoes danced her off, and landed her at her desk in five minutes.
“Well, I’m not late; that’s one comfort,” she thought, wishing she had come pleasantly, and not been whisked away without any luncheon.
Her legs were so tired with the long skips that she was glad to sit still; and that pleased the teacher, for generally she was fussing about all lesson time. But at recess she got into trouble again; for one of the children knocked down the house of corn-cobs she had built, and made her angry.
“Now, I’ll kick yours down, and see how you like it, Dolly.”
Up went her foot, but it didn’t come down; it stayed in the air, and there she stood looking as if she were going to dance. The children laughed to see her, and she could do nothing till she said to Dolly in a great hurry,–
“Never mind; if you didn’t mean to, I’ll forgive you.”
Then the foot went down, and Kitty felt so glad about it that she tried to be pleasant, fearing some new caper of those dreadful shoes. She began to see how they worked, and thought she would try if she had any power over them. So, when one of the children wanted his ball, which had bounced over the hedge, she said kindly,–“Perhaps I can get it for you, Willy.”
And over she jumped as lightly as if she too were an india-rubber ball.
“How could you do it?” cried the boys, much surprised; for not one of them dared try such a high leap.
Kitty laughed, and began to dance, feeling pleased and proud to find there was a good side to the shoes after all. Such twirlings and skippings as she made, such pretty steps and airy little bounds it was pretty to see; for it seemed as if her feet were bewitched, and went of themselves. The little girls were charmed, and tried to imitate her, but no one could, and they stood in a circle watching her dance till the bell rang, then all rushed in to tell about it.
Kitty said it was her new shoes, and never told how queerly they acted, hoping to have good times now. But she was mistaken.
On the way home she wanted to stop and see her friend Bell’s new doll, but at the gate her feet stuck fast, and she had to give up her wishes and go straight on, as mamma had told her always to do.
“Run and pick a nice little dish of strawberries for dinner,” said her sister, as she went in.
“I’m too ti–” There was no time to finish, for the shoes landed her in the middle of the strawberry bed at one jump.
“I might as well be a grasshopper if I’m to skip round like this,” she said, forgetting to feel tired out there in the pleasant garden, with the robins picking berries close by, and a cool wind lifting the leaves to show here the reddest and ripest ones hid.
The little dish was soon filled, and she wanted to stay and eat a few, warm and sweet from the vines; but the bell rang, and away she went, over the wood-pile, across the piazza, and into the dining-room before the berry in her mouth was half eaten.
“How this child does rush about to-day!” said her mother. “It is so delightful to have such a quick little errand-girl that I shall get her to carry some bundles to my poor people this afternoon.
“Oh, dear me! I do hate to lug those old clothes and bottles and baskets of cold victuals round. Must I do it?” sighed Kitty, dismally, while the shoes tapped on the floor under the table, as if to remind her that she must, whether she liked it or not.
“It would be right and kind, and would please me very much. But you may do as you choose about it. I am very tired, and some one must go; for the little Bryan baby is sick and needs what I send,” said mamma, looking disappointed.
Kitty sat very still and sober for some time, and no one spoke to her. She was making up her mind whether she would go pleasantly or be whisked about like a grasshopper against her will. When dinner was over, she said in a cheerful voice,–
“I’ll go, mamma; and when all the errands are done, may I come back through Fairyland, as we call the little grove where the tall ferns grow?”
“Yes, dear; when you oblige me, I am happy to please you.”
“I’m glad I decided to be good; now I shall have a lovely time,” said Kitty to herself, as she trotted away with a basket in one hand, a bundle in the other, and some money in her pocket for a poor old woman who needed help.
The shoes went quietly along, and seemed to know just where to stop. The sick baby’s mother thanked her for the soft little nightgowns; the lame girl smiled when she saw the books; the hungry children gathered round the basket of food, like young birds eager to be fed; and the old woman gave her a beautiful pink shell that her sailor son brought home from sea.
When all the errands were done Kitty skipped away to Fairyland, feeling very happy, as people always do when they have done kind things. It was a lovely place; for the ferns made green arches tall enough for little girls to sit under, and the ground was covered with pretty green moss and wood- flowers. Birds flew about in the pines, squirrels chattered in the oaks, butterflies floated here and there, and from the pond near by came the croak of frogs sunning their green backs on the mossy stones.
“I wonder if the shoes will let me stop and rest; it is so cool here, and I’m so tired,” said Kitty, as she came to a cosey nook at the foot of a tree.
The words were hardly out of her mouth when her feet folded under her, and there she sat on a cushion of moss, like the queen of the wood on her throne. Something lighted with a bump close by her; and looking down she saw a large black cricket with a stiff tail, staring at her curiously.
“Bless my heart! I thought you were some relation of my cousin Grasshopper’s. You came down the hill with long leaps just like him; so I stopped to say, How d’ ye do,” said the cricket, in its creaky voice.
“I’m not a grasshopper; but I have on fairy shoes to-day, and so do many things that I never did before,” answered Kitty, much surprised to be able to understand what the cricket said.
“It is midsummer day, and fairies can play whatever pranks they like. If you didn’t have those shoes on, you couldn’t understand what I say. Hark, and hear those squirrels talk, and the birds, and the ants down here. Make the most of this chance; for at sunset your shoes will stop skipping, and the fun all be over.”
While the cricket talked Kitty did hear all sorts of little voices, singing, laughing, chatting in the gayest way, and understood every word they said. The squirrels called to one another as they raced about,–
“Here’s a nut, there’s a nut;
Hide it quick away,
In a hole, under leaves,
To eat some winter day.
Acorns sweet are plenty,
We will have them all:
Skip and scamper lively
Till the last ones fall.”
The birds were singing softly,–
“Rock a bye, babies,
Your cradle hangs high;
Soft down your pillow,
Your curtain the sky.
Father will feed you,
While mother will sing,
And shelter our darlings
With her warm wing.”
And the ants were saying to one another as they hurried in and out of their little houses,–
“Work, neighbor, work!
Do not stop to play;
Wander far and wide,
Gather all you may.
We are never like
But like the busy bees,
Industrious and wise.”
“Ants always were dreadfully good, but butterflies are ever so much prettier,” said Kitty, listening to the little voices with wonder and pleasure.
Come down below,–
It’s lovely and cool
Out here in the pool;
On a lily-pad float
For a nice green boat.
Here we sit and sing
In a pleasant ring;
Or leap frog play,
In the jolliest way.
Our games have begun,
Come join in the fun.”
“Dear me! what could I do over there in the mud with the queer green frogs?” laughed Kitty, as this song was croaked at her.
“No, no, come and fly
Through the sunny sky,
Or honey sip
From the rose’s lip,
Or dance in the air,
Like spirits fair.
Come away, come away;
‘Tis our holiday.”
A cloud of lovely yellow butterflies flew up from a wild-rose bush, and went dancing away higher and higher, till they vanished in the light beyond the wood.
“That is better than leap-frog. I wish my skipping shoes would let me fly up somewhere, instead of carrying me on errands and where I ought to go all the time,” said Kitty, watching the pretty things glitter as they flew.
Just at that minute a clock struck, and away went the shoes over the pool, the hill, the road, till they pranced in at the gate as the tea-bell rang. Kitty amused the family by telling what she had done and seen; but no one believed the Fairyland part, and her father said, laughing,–
“Go on, my dear, making up little stories, and by and by you may be as famous as Hans Christian Andersen, whose books you like so well.”
“The sun will soon set, and then my fun will be over; so I must skip while I can,” thought Kitty, and went waltzing round the lawn so prettily that all the family came to see her.
“She dances so well that she shall go to dancing-school,” said her mother, pleased with the pretty antics of her little girl.
Kitty was delighted to hear that; for she had longed to go, and went on skipping as hard as she could, that she might learn some of the graceful steps the shoes took before the day was done.
“Come, dear, stop now, and run up to your bath and bed. It has been a long hot day, and you are tired; so get to sleep early, for Nursey wants to go out,” said her mother, as the sun went down behind the hills with a last bright glimmer, like the wink of a great sleepy eye.
“Oh, please, a few minutes more,” began Kitty, but was off like a flash; for the shoes trotted her upstairs so fast that she ran against old Nursey, and down she went, splashing the water all over the floor, and scolding in such a funny way that it made Kitty laugh so that she could hardly pick her up again.
By the time she was ready to undress the sun was quite gone, and the shoes she took off were common ones again, for midsummer day was over. But Kitty never forgot the little lessons she had learned: she tried to run willingly when spoken to; she remembered the pretty steps and danced like a fairy; and best of all, she always loved the innocent and interesting little creatures in the woods and fields, and whenever she was told she might go to play with them, she hurried away almost as quickly as if she still wore the skipping shoes.
[Illustration: So Cocky was brought in, and petted.]
In the barnyard a gray hen sat on her nest, feeling very happy because it was time for her eggs to hatch, and she hoped to have a fine brood of chickens. Presently crack, crack, went the shells, “Peep, peep!” cried the chicks; “Cluck, cluck!” called the hen; and out came ten downy little things one after the other, all ready to run and eat and scratch,–for chickens are not like babies, and don’t have to be tended at all.
There were eight little hens and two little cockerels, one black and one as white as snow, with yellow legs, bright eyes, and a tiny red comb on his head. This was Cockyloo, the good chick; but the black one was named Peck, and was a quarrelsome bad fowl, as we shall see.
Mrs. Partlet, the mamma, was very proud of her fine family; for the eight little daughters were all white and very pretty. She led them out into the farmyard, clucking and scratching busily; for all were hungry, and ran chirping round her to pick up the worms and seeds she found for them. Cocky soon began to help take care of his sisters; and when a nice corn or a fat bug was found, he would step back and let little Downy or Snowball have it. But Peck would run and push them away, and gobble up the food greedily. He chased them away from the pan where the meal was, and picked the down off their necks if they tried to get their share. His mother scolded him when the little ones ran to hide under her wings; but he didn’t care, and was very naughty. Cocky began to crow when he was very young, and had such a fine voice that people liked to hear his loud, clear “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” early in the morning; for he woke before the sun was up, and began his song. Peck used to grumble at being roused at dawn, for he was lazy; but the hens bustled up, and were glad to get out of the hen-house.
The father cock had been killed by a dog; so they made Cocky king of the farmyard, and Peck was very jealous of him.
“I came out of the shell first, and I am the oldest; so I ought to be king,” he said.
“But we don’t like you, because you are selfish, cross, and lazy. We want Cocky; he is so lively, kind, and brave. He will make a splendid bird, and _he_ must be our king,” answered the hens; and Peck had to mind, or they would have pulled every feather out of his little tail.
He resolved to do some harm to his good brother, and plagued him all he could. One day, when Cocky was swinging with three of his sisters on a bush that hung over the brook, Peck asked a stupid donkey feeding near to come and put his heavy foot on the bush. He did it, and crack went the branch, splash went the poor chicks into the water, and all were drowned but Cocky, who flew across and was saved. Poor little Hop, Chirp, and Downy went floating down the brook like balls of white foam, and were never seen again. All the hens mourned for them, and put a black feather in their heads to show how sorry they were. Mamma Partlet was heart-broken to lose three darlings at once; but Cocky comforted her, and never told how it happened, because he was ashamed to have people know what a bad bird Peck was.
A butterfly saw it all, and he told Granny Cockletop about it; and the hens were so angry that they turned Peck out of the barnyard, and he had to go and live in the woods alone. He said he didn’t care; but he did, and was very unhappy, and used to go and peep into the pleasant field where the fowls scratched and talked together. He dared not show himself, for they would have driven him out. But kind Cocky saw him, and would run with some nice bit and creep through the fence into the wood, saying,–“Poor brother, I’m sorry for you, and I’ll come and play with you, and tell you the news.”
Now in this wood lived a fox, and he had been planning to eat Peck as soon as he was fat; for he missed the good corn and meal he used to have, and grew very thin living on grasshoppers and berries. While he waited the sly fellow made friends with Peck, though the bird knew that foxes ate hens.
“I’m not afraid, and I don’t believe old Granny Cockletop’s tales. I can take care of myself, I guess,” he said, and went on playing with the fox, who got him to tell all about the hen-house,–how the door was fastened, and where the plump chickens roosted, and what time they went to bed,–so that he could creep in and steal a good supper by and by. Silly Peck never guessed what harm he was doing, and only laughed when Cocky said,–
“You will be sorry if you play with the fox. He is a bad fellow; so be careful and sleep on a high branch, and keep out of his way, as I do.”
Cocky was fat and large, and the fox longed to eat him, but never could, because he wisely ran home whenever he saw the rogue hiding in the wood. This made Peck angry, for he wanted his brother to stay and play; and so one day, when Cocky ran off in the midst of a nice game, Peck said to the fox,–
“See here, if you want to catch that fellow, I’ll tell you how to do it. He has promised to bring me some food to-night, when all the rest are at roost. He will hide and not get shut up; then, when those cross old biddies are asleep, he will cluck softly, and I am to go in and eat all I want out of the pan. You hide on the top of the hen-house; and while he talks to me, you can pounce on him. Then I shall be the only cock here, and they will have to make me king.”
“All right,” said the fox, much pleased with the plan, and very glad that Peck had a chance to get fatter.
So when it was night, Peck crept through the broken paling and waited till he heard the signal. Now, good Cocky had saved up nice bits from his own dinner, and put them in a paper hidden under a bush. He spread them all out in the barnyard and called; and Peck came in a great hurry to eat them, never stopping to say, “Thank you.”
Cocky stood by talking pleasantly till a little shower came up.
“Peck, dear, put this nice thick paper over you; then you will be dry, and can go on eating. I’ll step under that burdock leaf and wait till you are done,” said Cocky; and Peck was too busy gobbling up the food to remember anything else.
Now the fox had just crept up on the hen-house roof; and when he peeped down, there was just light enough to see a white thing bobbing about.
“Ah, ha! that’s Cockyloo; now for a good supper!” And with a jump he seized Peck by the head before he could explain the mistake.
One squawk, and the naughty bird was dead; but though the paper fell off, and the fox saw what he had done, it was too late, and he began to eat Peck up, while Cocky flew into a tree and crowed so loud that the farmer ran with his gun and shot the fox before he could squeeze through the hole in the fence with the fowl in his mouth.
After that the hens felt safe, for there were no more foxes; and when they heard about Peck they did not mourn at all, but liked Cocky better than ever, and lived happily together, with nothing to trouble them.
King Cockyloo grew to be a splendid bird,–pure white, with a tall red comb on his head, long spurs on his yellow legs, many fine feathers in his tail, and eyes that shone like diamonds. His crow was so loud that it could be heard all over the neighborhood, and people used to say, “Hark! hear Farmer Hunt’s cock crow. Isn’t it a sweet sound to wake us in the dawn?” All the other cocks used to answer him, and there was a fine matinee concert every day.
He was a good brother, and led his five little sisters all about the field, feeding, guarding, and amusing them; for mamma was lame now, and could not stir far from the yard. It was a pretty sight to see Cocky run home with a worm in his bill or a nice berry, and give it to his mother, who was very proud of her handsome son. Even old Granny Cockletop, who scolded about everything, liked him; and often said, as the hens sat scuffling in the dust,–