Obrazy na stronie

the other. Jeannie was noiselessly clapping her hands, and dancing from one toe to the other with delight. Leslie and Elinor squeezed each other's fingers lightly, and leaned forward together, their faces brimming over with fun ; and the former whispered with emphatic pantomime to Mrs. Linceford, If Mr. Wharne were only here!”

“ You ’ve been worried,” said the man. “And you ’ve ben comin' up to 'em gradooal. You don't take 'em in. If one of these ere hills was set out in our fields to home, you'd think it was something more than a hummock, I guess."

“Well, why ain't they, then ? It's the best way to put things where you can see 'em to an advantage. They ’re all in the way of each other here, and don't show for nothing to speak of. Worried ! I guess I hev ben! I shan't git over it till I've got home an' ben settled down a week. It's a mercy I've ever laid eyes agin on that bran-new black alpacky!”

“ Well, p'raps the folks felt wuss that lost them stylish-lookin' trunks. I 'll bet they had something more in 'em than black alpackys."

“ That don't comfort me none. I've had my tribulation.”

“ Well, come, don't be grouty, Hannah. We've got through the wust of it, and if you ain't satisfied, why, we 'll go back to Plymouth again. I can stand it awhile, I guess, if 't is four dollars a day.”

He had evidently sat still a good while for him, honest man; and he got up with this, and began to pace up and down, looking at the “hummocks,” which signified greater meanings to him than to his wife.

Mrs. Linceford came over and put the window down. It was absolutely necessary to laugh now, however much of further entertainment might be cut off.

Hannah jumped up, electrified, as the sash went down behind her. “ John! John! There 's folks in there!”

“ 'Spose likely,” said John, with quiet relish of amends. “What's good for me 'ill do for them !”

Author of Faith Gartney's Girlhood.



L ITTLE Patty Mudge looked up from her story-book with a sigh, and

1- as she looked up she caught the reflection of her face in a mirror over the table, and sighed again.

“O dear! if I were only slender and pale and graceful, and a grown-up young lady, - or a princess, and lived in an elegant mansion or a palace, and had heaps of money, and could carry bunches of flowers to sick folks lying on 'snowy couches,' — or could glide like an angel over battle-fields, to • bathe the pallid brows of dying heroes,' — or could 'seek out the gloomy abodes of poverty, and illuminate them with my presence!' But here I am, nothing but Patty Mudge, short and stout and homely, with a broad face and a wide mouth, and — not exactly poor, but then I have to work rather hard for a little girl; and as for the troubles of this world, somehow I don't feel so badly about them as I ought to, or else the folks round here don't have any to speak of. It is n't easy for me to feel badly about anything, I believe. But I should like to know how to say sympathizing things, and have a mission, such as the sermons and poems tell about, and do something great * for the good of mankind.' I wonder if I ever shall."

“Now 's your chance," said a little squeaking voice. Where did it come from? There was nothing in sight but a heap of pumpkins on a board just outside the window, and a small mulatto girl passing the garden-fence, scantily clad, and shivering in the cold November sunshine. All that Patty knew of her was that her name was “ Poppy," — “Poppæa” abbreviated, - and that she belonged to a family who had lately been helped to come North by the Freedmen's Aid Society; a family who had been slaves, and very shiftless ones, it appeared, from their unwillingness to labor, and their ignorant ways of doing the little they could do. They were staying in one end of an old tumble-down house a little way from Patty's, and of late had been a good deal neglected by the thrifty people of the village, who somehow had forgotten that it takes an education of work to love it and do it well.

But it could not be this little girl who spoke ; she was hurrying on, without turning a glance towards the house, eager no doubt to reach her miserable shelter from the cold. Shelter! the hens and the pigs would scarcely call it that. How cheerless it must be, with the wind screaming and puffing between the loose clapboards! And what kind of a dinner did they sit down to yesterday, and what would they have for Thanksgiving to-morrow? But somebody would bake something for them; and so, after all this thinking, Patty was gliding back into her visions of sentimental benevolence, when the faint squeak was heard again, “ Now 's your chance !”

Patty's curiosity was fully aroused. She went out and stood upon the doorstep. The mulatto child was out of sight, and everything was still but the wind, and that hardly whispered through the leafless boughs of the peartrees. But there was the voice, close to her now. ." Help me down," it said.

And Patty's mouth opened wider than ever, as she saw the topmost pump-, . kin of the pile at her side, moving itself without aid of hands. She took hold of its stem, and, although it was one of the heaviest of the lot, she scarcely felt its weight at all. The pumpkin seemed of itself to give one great leap to the ground, where it stood shaking its thick sides, as if wearied by the unusual exertion.

“Carry me in!” said the voice again, pantingly.

Patty had not believed her own ears until now. A pumpkin talking ! That was more wonderful than Æsop's fables, truly. But why should n't it speak, as well as brambles and oak-trees and brass kettles ? So she turned the great thing over upon its side, and rolled it, or rather let it roll itself, up the steps into the kitchen.

“ Cook me,” said the little, panting, squeaking voice again. “Cook me.”

Patty knew how to work very well. She had been helping her mother make the Thanksgiving pies and puddings for some time; but the idea of a pumpkin walking into the house and asking to be cooked was so funny,

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

that she sat down on the floor opposite the plump, yellow-faced vegetable. and laughed, the pumpkin meanwhile rocking backward and forward, as if it were laughing too.

Just then her mother came in. “Mother, may I make some pumpkin pies?” said Patty.

“Well, I don't care,” was the answer of the busy woman. “Our folks don't seem to be very fond of 'em, and I'm afraid they would n't fancy any of your mussin' up. But you can make 'em, if you 'll only promise to get somebody to eat 'em.”

Patty had become so much interested in the talking pumpkin, that she willingly promised; but when she took the knife to peel off the golden rind, it seemed almost wicked to do it! There was such a glow over it, from the ruddy firelight, such a look of live heartiness and comfort about it, lying there, ripe and stout, on the floor, she was reminded indistinctly of the reflection of her own fat face and figure in the mirror. Really, it seemed almost human. Would n't she be haunted by some goblin with fiery eyes, such as the boys made of hollow pumpkin-shells, if she cut this one to pieces ?

But the pumpkin began to squeak impatiently, “Cut me up! cut me up!” and Patty obeyed without more ado. Determined to have her pies as nice as they could be made, she poured out her milk, stirred in spice and sweetening, and made the crust light, wondering, while she rolled it out, who would eat them when they were done.

But the pumpkin told her, as it boiled in the kettle ; no longer with that low squeak, but with a deep musical rumble, as if laughing with joy over its own fate. “Black Poppy's people ; black Poppy's people.” And why should n't a pumpkin rejoice in the sacrifice of its own life for a benevolent purpose ? A certain poet says it is his faith “ that every flower enjoys the air it breathes.” And so, doubtless, every vegetable used for the nourishment of mankind enjoys the death it dies, if it enjoys anything. At all events, the pumpkin, though it had ceased to speak, looked as bright and happy in Patty's eyes, when it emerged from the oven in the form of half a dozen glossy, flaky pies, as when it rolled so clumsily down from the pile by the door-step, and a great deal handsomer.

And Patty herself, when she carried the pies to Poppy's wretched home, – having first set one aside in the cupboard, that her mother might see that she could bake pies worth anybody's eating, - looked almost beautiful with the excitement of doing a kindly deed. Her sun-browned hands and stout arms were just fitted for the healthy work they had been doing, and she had as much reason to be proud of them as any lady of her delicate fingers ; for certainly those are the prettiest hands that do most willingly the work they were made for.

And black Poppy's people could not have received one of the graceful ministering spirits of the story-books with more eloquent gratitude than they did the homely little girl and her heavy basket of pies. Indeed, to these half-starved beings she was a vision of loveliness, - a real angel of mercy.

And in helping to keep them comfortable for the winter, and in teaching them how to take care of themselves, Patty, without knowing it, has “found her mission.” She does not get much time now for looking at her own broad face and large features in the mirror, nor to plan for herself picturesque labors of charity. But since her ears were opened to hear the pumpkin speak, she hears invitations enough to works of kindness close about her home. Indoors and out, everything that can be turned to useful account seeks the acquaintance of little Patty Mudge. All the plants and the animals, and fire and water and air, have found voices, and are always whispering to her eagerly, — “Now's your chance !”

Lucy Larcom.

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

INDER the window of a certain pretty little cottage there grew a great

old apple-tree, which in the spring had thousands and thousands of lovely pink blossoms on it, and in the autumn had about half as many bright red apples as it had blossoms in the spring.

The nursery of this cottage was a little bower of a room, papered with mossy-green paper, and curtained with white muslin; and here five little children used to come, in their white nightgowns, to be dressed and have their hair brushed and curled every morning.

First, there were Alice and Mary, bright-eyed, laughing little girls, of seven and eight years, and then came stout little Jamie, and Charlie, and finally little Puss, whose real name was Ellen, but who was called Puss, and Pussy, and Birdie, and Toddlie, and any other pet name that came to mind.

Now it used to happen, every morning, that the five little heads would be peeping out of the window, together, into the flowery boughs of the appletree ; and the reason was this. A pair of robins had built a very pretty, smooth-lined nest in a fork of the limb that came directly under the window, and the building of this nest had been superintended, day by day, by the five pairs of bright eyes of these five children. The robins at first had been rather shy of this inspection ; but, as they got better acquainted, they seemed to think no more of the little curly heads in the window, than of the pink blossoms about them, or the daisies and buttercups at the foot of the tree.

All the little hands were forward to help ; some threw out flossy bits of VOL. II. — NO. IV.


« PoprzedniaDalej »