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NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING ***




Produced by Melissa McDaniel, Emmy and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)










_LITTLE SUNBEAMS._


VI.

NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING.




By the Author of this Volume.


I.

LITTLE SUNBEAMS.

By JOANNA H. MATHEWS, Author of the "Bessie Books."
6 vols. In a box $6.00

_Or, separately_: -

I. BELLE POWERS' LOCKET. 16mo 1.00
II. DORA'S MOTTO. 16mo 1.00
III. LILY NORRIS' ENEMY 1.00
IV. JESSIE'S PARROT 1.00
V. MAMIE'S WATCHWORD 1.00
VI. NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING 1.00


II.

THE FLOWERETS.

A series of Stories on the Commandments. 6 vols. In a box $3.60


"Under the general head of 'Flowerets,' this charming
author has grouped six little volumes, being a series
of stories on the Commandments. 'Our folks' are in love
with them, and have made off with them all before we
could get the first reading." - _Our Monthly._


III.

THE BESSIE BOOKS.

6 vols. In a box $7.50

"We can wish our young readers no greater pleasure than
an acquaintance with dear, cute little Bessie and her
companions, old and young, brute and human." - _American
Presbyterian._


ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
_New York_




NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING.


"Be good, sweet child, and let who will be clever:
Do noble things, not dream them, all day long;
So shalt thou make life, death, and that vast for ever.
One grand, sweet song." - KINGSLEY.

BY
JOANNA H. MATHEWS,
AUTHOR OF THE "BESSIE BOOKS" AND THE "FLOWERETS."


NEW YORK:
ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
530 BROADWAY.
1882.




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by
ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.




CONTENTS.


PAGE
I. HARD AT WORK 7
II. A TALK WITH PAPA 25
III. NELLIE A HOUSEKEEPER 50
IV. A COURTSHIP 70
V. WHITE MICE 94
VI. THE GRAY MICE 113
VII. THE BLACK CAT 136
VIII. DAISY'S SACRIFICE 157
IX. MAKING GINGER-CAKES 181
X. FRESH TROUBLES 204
XI. A NIGHT OF IT 224
XII. AN ALARM 236
XIII. LAST OF THE SUNBEAMS 245




[Illustration]




NELLIE'S HOUSEKEEPING.




I.

_HARD AT WORK._


"NELLIE, will you come down to the beach now?"

"No!" with as much shortness and sharpness as the little word of two
letters could well convey.

"Why not?"

"Oh! because I can't. Don't bother me."

And, laying down the pencil with which she had been writing, Nellie
Ransom pushed back the hair from her flushed, heated face, drew a long,
weary sigh, took up the Bible which lay at her elbow, and, turning
over the leaf, ran her finger slowly and carefully down the page before
her.

Carrie stood with one elbow upon the corner of the table at which her
sister sat, her chin resting in her palm as she discontentedly watched
Nellie, while with the other hand she swung back and forth by one
string the broad straw hat she was accustomed to wear when playing out
of doors.

"I think you might," she said presently. "Mamma says I can't go if you
don't, and I want to go so."

"I can't help it," said Nellie, still without taking her eyes from her
Bible. "I wish you'd stop shaking the table so."

"How soon will you come?" persisted Carrie, taking her elbow from the
table.

"When I'm ready, and not before," snapped Nellie. "I wish you'd let me
alone."

Carrie began to cry.

"It's too bad," she whimpered. "Mamma says, if I go at all, I must go
early, so as to be back before sundown, 'cause my cold is so bad.
There won't be any time for me to play."

Nellie made no answer, but, having found what she wanted in her Bible,
began to write again, copying from the page of the Holy Book before her.

Presently Carrie, forgetting her caution, tossed down her hat, and
pettishly plumped both elbows upon the table, muttering, -

"I think you're real mean."

"Stop shaking the table, or I won't go at all," said Nellie, in a loud,
irritable tone. "Ask mamma to let Ruth take you."

"She can't spare Ruth, she says. The baby is fretful, and she don't
feel well enough to take care of it herself; and I think you might
go with me. I haven't been to the beach for four days, because I was
sick," pleaded Carrie, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"Well, I'm too busy to go now. You'll have to wait until I'm ready,"
said Nellie. "I'll come by and by."

"By and by will leave hardly any time," said Carrie, with a wistful
glance out upon the lawn, where the shadows were already growing long.

No answer; only the rustle of Nellie's sheet of paper as she turned it
over.

Carrie wandered restlessly about the room for a moment or two; then,
coming back to the table, began idly to turn over some loose papers
which lay at Nellie's right hand.

Nellie snatched them from her.

"Now, look here," she said, "if you don't go away and let me and my
things alone, I won't go to the beach at all. You hinder me all the
time, and I won't be so bothered."

"Cross, hateful thing!" said Carrie, passionately. "I don't b'lieve you
mean to go at all. I wish I had a better sister than you."

Nellie turned once more to the Bible, but deigned no answer to this
outburst.

Carrie looked back from the door, which she had reached on her way from
the room, and said in a tone one shade less furious than her last, -

"You're always poking over your Bible now, but it don't seem to teach
you to be kind. You grow crosser and crosser every day; and you're not
one bit like you used to be."

"Carrie!" called Mrs. Ransom's gentle voice from the next room; and
Carrie vanished, leaving Nellie, as she had said she wished to be,
alone.

Did her work go smoothly after that?

Not very, at least for a few moments. Perhaps mamma had heard all that
had passed, and Nellie did not feel quite satisfied that she should
have done so. What had she said to Carrie? She could hardly recollect
herself, so divided had been her attention between her little sister
and the task before her; but she was quite certain that she had been
"cross," and spoken to Carrie in an unkind manner, apart from her
refusal to accompany the child, who, she well knew, had been confined
to the house for the last few days, and deprived of her usual play and
exercise in the open air.

But then Carrie might just as well have waited patiently a few
moments till she was ready to go, and not bothered her so. She would
go presently when she had looked out three - well, no - five - six more
verses, and written them out; and once more she took up the Bible.

But the words before her eyes mingled themselves with those which were
sounding in her ears.

"Not like she used to be! Crosser and crosser every day!"

Ah! none knew this better than Nellie herself, and yet she strove, or
thought she did, against the growing evil.

Well, there was no use thinking about it now. She would finish the task
she had set herself, call Carrie, make it up with her, and go to the
beach.

And once more she was absorbed in her work, in spite of aching head
and burning cheeks, - so absorbed that she did not heed how time was
passing, did not heed that the six verses had grown into ten, until, as
she was searching for the eleventh, the last golden rays of the sun
fell across her paper, and, looking up quickly, she saw that he was
just sinking in the far west. Too late for Carrie to go out now! The
poor child had lost her afternoon stroll. Oh, she was so sorry! How
could she forget?

Hastily shutting the Bible and pushing it from her, she gathered up her
papers, thrust them into her writing-desk, and turned the key, ran into
the hall for her hat, and went in search of Carrie.

Where was she? She had not heard the child's voice since she left her
in such a temper, nor had she heard Daisy's. Probably the two little
sisters had found some other way of amusing themselves, and Carrie
would have forgotten her disappointment. Well, she would be sure to
give her a good play on the beach to-morrow.

Where could the children be? For, as Nellie thought this to herself,
she was looking in all the places where they were usually to be found,
but they were nowhere to be seen. She called in vain about house and
garden; no childish voice answered.

"I suppose Carrie is provoked with me, and won't speak to me, and won't
let Daisy," she said to herself. "Well, I'm sure I don't care."

But she did care, though she would not acknowledge it to herself;
and she sat down upon the upper step of the porch, and watched the
last rosy sunset tints fading out of the soft clouds overhead, with
a restless, discontented feeling at her heart. The stillness and
the beauty of the scene did not seem to bring peace and rest to her
troubled little soul.

And why was it troubled?

Because for days past - nay, for weeks past - Nellie had been conscious
of an increasing ill-humor and irritability, - "crosser and crosser
every day," - yes, that was it; but why was it? She did not know, she
could not help it; she was sure she tried hard enough; and every night
and morning, when she said her prayers and asked not to be "led into
temptation," she always thought particularly of the temptation to be
cross, for that seemed what she had to struggle with in these days.

That, and one other thing.

Nellie tried to put that other ugly failing out of sight, would not
believe that she was guilty of it; and yet it would come before her
sometimes, as it did now; and as she thought of little kindnesses,
even little duties unperformed and neglected, she wondered if she were
really growing selfish.

She should so hate to be selfish.

And yet - and yet - people were always asking her to do favors at such
inconvenient times, when she was so busy; and somehow she was always
busy now. There was so much she wanted to do; so much to accomplish
this summer, before she returned to the city and to school; and she did
not like to be interrupted when she was reading or studying. It was so
hard to put her mind to it again, and she was sure it was right to try
to improve herself all she could.

The click of the gate-latch roused her from her troublesome thoughts;
and, looking around, she saw her mother crossing the lawn, Carrie
holding her hand and walking quietly by her side, Daisy jumping and
skipping before them.

Daisy was always skipping and jumping. What a happy, merry little thing
she was! never still one moment, except when she was asleep, and not
always so very still then, little roll-about that she was!

But where had they all been?

The toys the children had with them soon answered this question, for
Daisy was pulling a wagon which had been filled with stones and shells.
The most part of these, however, lay scattered here and there along the
way home; for Daisy's prancings and caperings - she was supposed to be a
pony just now - had jolted them out of the wagon and shed them broadcast
on the path.

Still the few that were left at the bottom of the wagon told whence
they had come; and the tiny spade and pail full of shells which Carrie
held told the same story.

But how tired and languid mamma looked! how wearily she walked across
the lawn!

Nellie ran down to meet her.

"Why, mamma!" she exclaimed. "Have you been down to the beach?"

"Yes, Nellie."

"But, mamma, you look so tired. Didn't you know that was too long a
walk for you?"

Nellie, a child grave and wise for her years, always, or almost always,
showed a tender, thoughtful care for her mother; and it was sometimes
really droll to see how she checked or advised her against any
imprudence, even gently reproved, as in the present case, when the deed
was done.

"You ought not to do it, mamma, you really ought not."

"I had promised Carrie that she should go this afternoon," said Mrs.
Ransom, "and I could not bear that she should be disappointed after
being shut up in the house for four days."

"Mamma," said Carrie, "I'm sure I'd rather have stayed home than had
you make yourself too tired. I didn't know it was too far for you. I
really didn't. Oh, I'm so sorry you said you'd take me! Will it make
you ill again?"

"No, dear. I think not. I do not believe it will hurt me, though I do
feel rather tired," said Mrs. Ransom, smiling cheerfully down into the
little troubled face which looked up so penitently into her own.

Self-reproached, humbled and repentant, Nellie could find no words to
say what she would, or rather the choking feeling in her throat stifled
her voice; and she could only walk silently by her mother's side until
they reached the piazza, where Mrs. Ransom sank wearily into a chair,
giving her hat and parasol into the hands of the eager little Carrie,
who seemed to feel as if she could not do enough to make her mother
comfortable after the sacrifice she had made for her; and Daisy, who
always thought she must do what Carrie did, followed her example.

Carrie brought a footstool, Daisy immediately ran for another, and
nothing would do but mamma must put one foot on each. Carrie brought
a cushion to put behind her, and Daisy, vanishing into the library,
presently reappeared, rolling along with a sofa pillow in each hand,
and was quite grieved when she found that mamma could not well make
use of all three. Then Carrie bringing a fan, and fanning mamma, Daisy
must do the same, and scratched mamma's nose, and banged her head, and
thumped her cheek with the enormous Japanese affair which would alone
serve her purpose; to all of which mamma submitted with the meekest
resignation, only kissing the dear little, blundering nurse, whenever
such mishaps occurred, and saying, -

"Not quite so hard, darling."

And meanwhile Nellie, with that horrid lump in her throat, could do
nothing but stand leaning against the piazza railing, wishing - oh, so
much! - that she had gone with Carrie when she asked her, and so spared
mamma all this fatigue. Mamma had uttered no word of reproach; she knew
that none was needed just now, although she feared that under the same
temptation Nellie would do the same thing again.

But what greater reproach could there be than that pale face and
languid voice, and the knowledge that but for her selfishness - yes,
selfishness, Nellie could not shut her eyes to it - mamma need not have
gone to the beach.

And she knew that it was necessary and right that her mother should
be shielded from all possible fatigue, trouble, and anxiety; she knew
that they had all come to Newport this summer because the doctor had
recommended that air as best for her, and that papa had taken this
small but pretty cottage at a rather inconvenient expense, so that she
might be quite comfortable, have all her family about her, and gain
all the benefit possible. Every one was so anxious and careful about
her, as there was need to be; and she had improved so much the last
fortnight in this lovely air, and under such loving care.

And now! She had been the first one to cause her any fatigue or
risk, - she who had meant to be such a good and thoughtful young nurse.

To be sure, she had never dreamed that mamma would take Carrie to the
beach, but still it was all her fault. Oh dear! oh dear!

Carrie and Daisy chattered away to one another and to their mother,
while the latter sat silently resting in her easy-chair, thinking more
of Nellie than of them, thinking anxiously too.

Suddenly a choking sob broke in upon the children's prattle, - a sob
that would have its way, half stifled though it was.

"Nellie, dear!" said Mrs. Ransom. "Come here, my child," - as Nellie
turned to run away.

Nellie came with her hands over her face.

"Don't feel so badly, dear. I am not so very tired, and I do not think
it will hurt me," said Mrs. Ransom. "I thought I was stronger than it
seems I am; but another time we will both be more careful, hey?"

And she drew away Nellie's hand, and tenderly kissed her hot, wet cheek.

Nellie went down upon one of the pair of stools occupied by her
mother's feet, somewhat to Daisy's disgust, who only forgave her by
reason of the distress she saw her in, and buried her face on her knee.

She was never a child of many words, and just now they failed her
altogether; but her mother needed none.

"What did Nellie do? Did she hurt herself?" asked the wondering Daisy.

"No," said Carrie. "She hasn't hurt herself, but she" - Carrie's
explanations were not apt to prove balm to a wounded spirit, and her
mother checked her by uplifted finger and a warning shake of her head,
taking up the word herself.

"No," she said to Daisy. "Nellie is troubled about something, but we
won't talk about it now."

"Yes, we'll never mind, won't we?" said Daisy. "But I'll fan her to
make her feel better."

And, suiting the action to the word, she slipped down from her perch
beside her mother, and began to labor vigorously about Nellie's head
and shoulders with her ponderous instrument.

Somehow this struck Nellie as funny, and even in the midst of her
penitent distress she was obliged to give a low laugh; a nervous little
laugh it was, too, as her mother noticed.

"She's 'most better now," said Daisy, in a loud whisper, and with a
confidential nod at mamma. "I fought I'd cure her up. This is a very
nice fan when people don't feel well, or feel sorry," she added, as she
paused for a moment, with an admiring look at the article in question;
"it makes such a lot of wind."

And she returned desperately to her work, bringing down the fan with a
whack on Nellie's head, and then apologizing with -

"Oh! I didn't mean to give you that little tap, Nellie; it will waggle
about so in my hands."

Nellie laughed again, she really could not help it, though she felt
ashamed of herself for doing so; and now she raised her head, wiped
her eyes, and smiled at Daisy; the little one fully believing that her
attentions had brought about this pleasing result.

Perhaps they had.

But although cheerfulness was for the time restored, poor Nellie's
troubles had not yet come to an end for that evening.

[Illustration]




[Illustration]




II.

_A TALK WITH PAPA._


MR. RANSOM had said that the family were not to wait tea for him, as he
might be late; but they were scarcely seated at the table when he came
in and took his place with them.

"Elinor," he said immediately, looking across the table at his wife, "I
met Mr. Bradford, and he told me he had seen you down on the beach with
the children. I told him he must be mistaken, as you were not fit for
such a walk, but he insisted he was right. It is not possible you were
so imprudent, is it?"

"Well, yes, if you will call it imprudence," answered Mrs. Ransom,
smiling. "I do not feel that it has hurt me."

"Your face tells whether it has hurt you or no," said her husband in a
vexed tone; "you look quite tired out: how could you do so?"

"I wanted Carrie to have the walk, and I felt more able to go with
her than to spare the nurse and take care of baby myself," answered
Mrs. Ransom, trying to check farther questioning by a side glance at
Nellie's downcast face.

But Mr. Ransom did not understand, or did not heed the look she gave
him.

"And where was our steady little woman, Nellie?" he said. "I thought
she was to be trusted to take care of the other children at any time or
in any place."

"And so she is," said Mrs. Ransom, willing, if possible, to spare
Nellie any farther mortification, "but she was occupied this afternoon."

"That's nonsense," exclaimed Mr. Ransom, with another vexed look at
his wife's pale face; "Nellie could have had nothing to do of such
importance that it must hinder her from helping you. Why did you not
send her?"

"Papa," murmured poor Nellie, "I - mamma - I - please - it was all my
fault. I - I was cross to Carrie. Please don't blame mamma."

Nellie's humble, honest confession did not much mollify her father, who
was a quick-tempered man, rather apt to be sharp with his children if
any thing went wrong; but another pleading look from his wife checked
any very severe reproof, and in answer to her "I really think the walk
did not hurt me," he contented himself with saying shortly, "I don't
agree with you," and let the matter drop.

No sooner was Nellie released from the tea-table than she was busy
again over her Bible and the slips of paper, quite lost to every thing
else around her. The children chattered away without disturbing her;
and she did not even notice that papa and mamma, as they talked in low
tones on the other side of the room, were looking at her in a manner
which would have made it plain to an observer that she was the subject
of their conversation.

By and by Daisy came to kiss her for good-night. She raised her
head slightly, and turned her cheek to her little sister, answering
pleasantly enough, but with an absent air, showing plainly that her
thoughts were busy with something else.

Daisy held strong and natural objections to this not over-civil mode of
receiving her caress, and, drawing back her rosy lips from the upraised
cheek, said, -

"No, I shan't kiss you that way. I want your mouf; it's not polite to
stick up a cheek."

An expression of impatience flitted over Nellie's face; but it was gone
in an instant, and, dropping her pencil, she put both arms about Daisy,
and gave her a hearty and affectionate kiss upon her puckered little
mouth.

Daisy was satisfied, and ran off, but, pausing as she reached the door,
she looked back at her sister and said, -

"You're an awful busy girl these days, Nellie; the play is all gone out
of you."

Nellie smiled faintly, hardly heeding the words; but other eyes which
were watching her thought also that she did indeed look as if "all
the play had gone out" of her. She returned to her work as Daisy left
her side, but even as she did so she drew herself up with a sigh, and
passed her hand wearily across her forehead.

"It is time a stop was put to this," whispered her father, and mamma
assented with a rather melancholy nod of her head.

Not two minutes had passed when Daisy's little feet were heard
pattering down the stairs again, and her glowing face appeared in the
open door.

"Ruth says she can't put baby down to put me to bed," she proclaimed
with an unmistakable air of satisfaction in the circumstances which
made it necessary for mother or sister to perform that office for her.
"Who wants to do it?" she added, looking from one to the other.

Mrs. Ransom looked over at Nellie, as if expecting she would offer to
go with Daisy; but the little girl paid no attention, did not even seem
to hear the child.

Mrs. Ransom rose and held out her hand to Daisy.

"Nellie," said Mr. Ransom sharply, "are you going to let your mother go
upstairs with Daisy?"

Nellie started, and looked up confusedly.

"Oh! I didn't know. Do you want me to, mamma? Couldn't Ruth put her to
bed?" she said, showing that she had, indeed, not heard one word of
what had passed.

"Ruth cannot leave the baby," said her mother; "but I do not want you
to go unwillingly, Nellie. I would rather do it myself."

"I am quite willing, mamma," and the tone of her voice showed no want
of readiness. "I did not know you were going. Come, Daisy, dear."

But she could not refrain from a backward, longing look at her book
and papers as she left the room.

She was not unkind or cross to her little sister while she was with
her; far from it. She undressed her carefully and tenderly, - with
rather more haste than Daisy thought well, perhaps, but doing for her
all that was needful; and, if she were more silent than usual, that did
not trouble Daisy, _she_ could talk enough for both.

But her thoughts were occupied with something quite different from
the duty she had before her; she forgot one or two little things, and
would even have hurried Daisy into bed without hearing her say her
prayers, but for the child's astonished reminder. This done, and Daisy
laid snugly in her crib, she kissed her once more, and gladly escaped
downstairs. Daisy was never afraid to be left alone; besides, there was
the nurse just in the next room.


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