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Joanna H. (Joanna Hooe) Mathews.

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past recall, and the stranger was henceforth looked upon as a man
capable of breaking any and every commandment among the ten.

"I s'pect that man never ermembers the Sabbaf day to keep it holy;
and I don't b'lieve he ever says his p'ayers," said Daisy, severely,
regarding him with an air of great offence as he walked on with her
father to the house.

"I think he does. I believe he's a very nice gentleman," said Nellie,
much amused.

"No, I fink not," said Daisy, decidedly. "I b'ieve he slaps his wife
fee times ev'y day. He has the look of it."

Nellie laughed outright.

"He hasn't any wife," she said.

"He'd do it if he had one then," persisted Daisy, who, in general the
most forgiving and soft-hearted of little mortals, could not overlook
the offence of the visitor, "'cause he calls people sons. Augh! People
that slap their wives so much that they kill 'em have to be took to
prison," she added reflectively, and as if she found some consolation
in the thought. "Hannah told me so. She knew a man that was."

"Hannah had no business to tell you such stories as that," said Nellie.
"Mamma wouldn't like it at all, Daisy."

"Then I'll tell her she mustn't do it," said Daisy; "but, Nellie, do
people that kill mice have to be took to prison?"

"No," said Nellie, "mice are very troublesome and mischievous, so it is
not wrong to kill them. But it would be very wicked to tease them or
hurt them more than we can help."

"I'm glad of that," said Daisy, "'cause I wouldn't like you and Carrie
to go to prison."

"No, I should think not," said Nellie, "but Carrie and I did not kill a
mouse."

"Oh, yes! you did," said Daisy, "least you squeezed him up in the bed
so he had to kill hisse'f afterwards."

"O Daisy!" said Nellie.

"It's the truf," answered Daisy, as one who knows. "Hannah found him
'most dead in your bed this morning, 'tween the mattresses, and she
said you must have put him there last night, but you didn't know it,
and afterwards he killed hisse'f about it. I saw him when he was dead,
and going to be frowed away."

Nellie shuddered, the thought was very painful to her that the mouse
should have come to his death in such a way; but Carrie felt worse
still, and turning round and resting her arm upon the back of a rustic
chair which stood beneath a tree, she laid her head upon it, and cried
as she had done in the morning when she was hiding in the garret.
Nellie comforted her as well as she could, but Carrie was hard to
be consoled; and felt as if she was never to hear the last of those
unlucky mice, and the consequences of her own naughtiness.

Mr. Ransom sat up late that night, long after his visitor had left,
and the family gone to rest. All his little children he supposed to
be long since fast asleep; and he was just preparing to turn out the
lights and go upstairs himself, when a slight sound in the hall without
attracted his attention. The patter of small bare feet it sounded like,
and the patter of small bare feet it was, as he was assured a moment
later when a little white-clad figure presented itself at the open
door, and looked wistfully at him with pitiful, beseeching eyes.

"Carrie! my child! are you ill? What is wrong?" he asked in much
surprise.

"No, papa, not ill, but, - but" - Tears choked her voice, the little feet
ran over the floor, and she had clambered upon his knee, and with her
face hidden in his bosom sobbed out her confession.

"I've been awake so long, papa," she said, "and I thought I never could
go to sleep till I had told you, and I could not wait till morning, so
I came out of my bed down here to find you. Oh! please forgive me, and
do you think mamma can ever forgive me for being so cruel to her, and
trying to think it was all nonsense about her being so afraid of mice?
And then to think that poor little mouse was killed just for me! Nellie
and I never knew he was there when we turned the bed over, but he
wouldn't have been in our room if I had not brought the mice upstairs;
and now Ruth says she don't know when we'll be rid of them, and mamma
will be troubled and frightened with them for ever so long. And Nellie
and Daisy have been real helps to mamma, and I talked so much about
helping her too, but I've only been a bother and trouble to her, and
never did a thing for her after all."

All this, and much more, the sorrowful little penitent poured into her
father's ear.

Mr. Ransom had no mind to punish or scold her: he saw that she was
already sufficiently punished by the remorse and anxiety she had
brought upon herself, and he thought that this was likely to prove
a lasting lesson to her. Besides, the thing was quite a new offence
of its kind; for Carrie was generally not only obedient, but also
regardful of what she believed to be her mother's wishes, whether
expressed or not; and he did not desire to be hard with her now that
she saw her fault so plainly, and was in such a humble, repentant frame
of mind.

So although he talked seriously to her, he did so very kindly and
quietly, - poor Carrie thought she had never known her father so
kind, - nor did he talk very long that night, but soon carried her up
to bed in his arms, quite soothed and comforted; and so great was the
relief of the confession, that the poor little weary head was scarcely
on the pillow before she was fast asleep.

No sooner were she and Nellie awake in the morning than she told her
sister the whole story, feeling that she could no longer keep the
secret from her, but making her promise not to tell the boys, lest they
should tease her, which Carrie felt she could not bear.

The hardest of all was yet to come, the confession to her dear, gentle,
tender mother. Mamma would look so surprised and grieved, would be so
shocked to think she could be so cruelly thoughtless.

But it was gone through with bravely, not very steadily it is true, for
Carrie's voice failed her more than once, but she did not attempt to
hide or excuse any thing.

And oh! how much lighter her heart was when it was over, and mamma knew
the worst.

Perhaps Mrs. Ransom was not as much surprised as Carrie had expected
she would be: it may be that she was prepared to hear the story which
Carrie had believed would shock and distress her so much; and the
readiness with which she granted her forgiveness but made her little
daughter feel all the more repentant for having been so heedless of her
comfort.

It was a healing repentance now, though, with the sting and bitterness
gone from it; and Carrie felt as if she should never be fretful and
cross again; no, not even with Ruth She would try to be so helpful,
so considerate and good now, she thought; but she would make no "fuss"
about it, or talk as though she meant to do such very fine things, only
to fail after all perhaps.

Nellie and Daisy had said and promised far less than she had done, but
their actions had spoken for them.

"What is that you are doing, Nellie?" she asked, when all the little
housekeeping tasks accomplished, her reading and practising finished,
Nellie brought her workbox and sat down to sew. "Why! those are the
slippers mamma was going to work for Johnny, are they not?"

"Yes," said Nellie.

"And are you going to help her with them?"

"I am going to work them all," answered Nellie. "Mamma began them, but
she found it tired her eyes, and she was anxious that Johnny should not
be disappointed, so I told her I would work them."

Carrie sat a moment silent.

"And I suppose," she said at length, "that that was the reason you said
you would not have time to make the bracket for mamma?"

"Yes," said Nellie, quietly.

"O Nellie!" said Carrie, "how much better you are than I am. You are a
real, true help to mamma: you think of and you do what is really useful
to her, but you don't talk about doing such great things. And Daisy,
too; when I think about her giving up her white mice that she really
had a right to keep, 'cause mamma said she could, I do feel too ashamed
and mean for any thing. Nellie," - after another little thoughtful
pause, - "do you think a good way to show mamma how sorry I am would be
to spend all my saved-up money for mouse-traps?"

"Well, no, I don't," said Nellie. "I do not think that would do any
good, for papa has bought several this morning; and there is one set
in every room in the house, so that we hope the mice will soon all be
caught."

"Then what can I do to show mamma how sorry I am?" asked Carrie.

"I think mamma knows it already, dear; and the best way is just to be
careful to think about what she would like, and then to be very sure
to do it; - and - and I think one good way would be not to quarrel with
Ruth, and not to make trouble in the nursery."

"Ruth is so hateful," murmured Carrie.

"I don't think Ruth would be cross to you if you would be a little more
patient and good in the nursery," said Nellie. "You know, Carrie, dear,
how often poor mamma has to go to the nursery to make peace, or to take
the baby, because you will not wait for what you want, or will not
stand quiet to be dressed, or something like that."

"Yes," owned Carrie, half reluctantly, "and Ruth never does be cross
to you or Daisy; and when I am good she is pretty decent. But, Nellie,
such things as that do not seem like a real help."

"But they _are_ the best help: mamma says so, and I've found it out
for myself, Carrie," said Nellie.

"Nellie, would you ever have believed that I could do such a thing as
to keep those mice?"

"I was surprised when you told me," answered her sister, "but I was
just thinking, Carrie, that it was really not so very much worse than
the way I behaved while I was studying so much and tiring myself out
over those 'Bible subjects.' I think I was horrid to mamma and to all
of you then."

"Yes, you were," said tactless Carrie.

"I was thinking so much more about being wise and knowing a great deal
than about being good and a help to mamma," continued Nellie, not
offended, though she had winced a little at Carrie's plain speaking,
"that it seems to me now that I was almost as naughty as - as" -

"As I was to keep the mice?" said Carrie.

"Yes, as you were to keep the mice. I don't think I thought any more
about mamma than you did, and I know several times I made a good deal
of trouble for her which might have been helped if I had been more
careful."

"You've quite given up your Bible subjects, haven't you?" asked Carrie.

"Yes, I made up my mind to be contented with those I had. They would
show Miss Ashton I had thought of what she said, but I know she would
think it was right for me to leave them. I've made up my mind too,
Carrie, not to be so very anxious about my books and studies."

Here Daisy came running up to them.

"Nellie, what'll make me grow very fast?"

"I don't know," said Nellie: "what do you want to grow very fast for?"

"So I can have a birdie," said Daisy. "Papa said I was too little now,
least he said he would give me one when I was bigger. If I was to plant
myse'f and then pour water on my foots like they do on the flowers'
foots, then wouldn't I grow pretty fast?"

"No," said Nellie, "you'd only be all wet and muddy, and then you'd be
sick."

Daisy sighed.

"Oh, I do want a birdie so," she said. "I'd love my birdie more'n my
white mice; oh! a great deal more. Nellie, if I was a birdie, or a
white mouse, would you love me the most?"

"I'd love you whatever you were," said Nellie, turning to kiss the
sweet, dimpled cheek beside her: "I couldn't help it."

"If I was an ugly bug crawling about, would you love me?" questioned
Daisy.

Nellie laughed.

"Yes, I'd try to," she answered.

"Nellie, if I was that ugly bug crawling about, would you smash me?"

"Not if you were not doing any harm," said Nellie. "That would be
cruel."

"I'm glad," said Daisy, with unmistakable signs of relief in the
assurance. "I wouldn't like my sister to smash me even if I was a bug.
Nellie, mamma said God sometimes made people sorry 'cause He thought
it was good for 'em to make 'em better: does He send bugs and spiders
'cause it is good for 'em too, and birdies just to make 'em glad?"

Daisy's questions were sometimes quite beyond Nellie's powers of
answering: indeed they often puzzled older and wiser people. But she
tried to explain to her little sister that even bugs and spiders were
made for some good purpose; and after this Daisy looked with more
respect upon those obnoxious creatures, and was even upon one occasion
heard to say, -

"Good, little, very ugly spider, maybe God has some work for you to do,
so I won't smash you, but let you do it."

While Nellie was talking to Daisy, Carrie rose and went in search of
her father. She found him in the library.

"Papa," she said, going close to him, "I think I ought to ask you to
give my bird to Daisy. She deserves it a great deal more than I do for
giving up her white mice, and I do not think I ought to have it. Nellie
will take care of it for her, and she does want a bird so much."

Mr. Ransom lifted her upon his knee.

"You really think this, Carrie? You really wish that Daisy should have
your bird?"

"Yes, papa, it really seems the most right for her to have it. I
thought so ever since you brought the birds home and she wanted one so
much, but I felt as if I could not tell you to give her mine; but now I
think I would feel better if you let her have it instead of me."

"Do as you please, my dear child," said her father, kissing her. "Daisy
certainly does deserve a reward for her self-sacrifice."

To describe Daisy's delight when Carrie took her up stairs, and leading
her up to the bird said that it was hers, would be quite impossible.

"Are you sure you don't mind, Carrie? Would you just as lieve I'd
have him, for my own?" she exclaimed. "Oh! I am so glad, so glad!
When I have a camel wif two humps on his back, I'll give him to you,
Carrie, - I really will."

The bird was henceforth called Daisy's, but I believe that he afforded
quite as much satisfaction to the former little owner as he did to the
present one; for she had the care of him as much as if she had kept him
for her own; and it was thought best that he should still hang in her
room so that he might not be separated from Nellie's bird.

* * * * *

And now good-by to my "Little Sunbeams." If they have shed light in any
shady places, brightened any youthful eyes, or cheered any innocent
hearts; if they have poured even the faintest ray upon the safe and
narrow path which leadeth upward to Eternal Light, - the recompense is
great; and may the blessing of the Master go with them, and prosper
them, it may be, for His glory.

* * * * *

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation errors repaired.

Page 17, "Neilie" changed to "Nellie" (Nellie ran down to meet)

Page 64, "reponsibility" changed to "responsibility" (of all this
responsibility)

Page 74, "oppsite" changed to "opposite" (into the opposite)







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Online LibraryJoanna H. (Joanna Hooe) MathewsNellie's Housekeeping → online text (page 10 of 10)