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If at the end of a week we do not find that you are feeling better and
happier" -

"And not so cross," put in Nellie, with rather a shamefaced smile.

Her mother smiled, too, and took up her speech. "Then we will agree
that my plan was not needful, and that all this constant poring over
books does not hurt your health, your temper, or your mind."

"Yes, mamma," said Nellie, with a sigh she could not suppress, though
she did try to speak cheerfully. Then she added, "O mamma, I should so
like to be a very clever, bright girl, and to know a great deal!"

"A very good thing, Nellie, but not the first of all things, my
daughter," said Mrs. Ransom, putting her arm about the waist of her
little girl, who had risen and come over to her side.

"No, mamma," said Nellie softly, "and you think I have made it the
first of all things lately, do you not?"

Before Mrs. Ransom could answer, sounds of woe came from the piazza
without, Daisy's voice raised in trouble once more.

Tears and smiles both lay near the surface with Daisy, and had their
way by turns. One moment she would be in the depth of despair, the next
dimpling all over with laughter and frolic; so that Nellie did not fear
any very serious disaster when she ran to see what the matter was.

The great misery of Daisy's life was this, - that people were always
taking her for a boy, a mistake which she considered both unnatural and
insulting, and which she always resented with all her little might.

Nellie found her sitting at the head of the piazza steps, crying
aloud, with her straw hat pressed over her face by both hands.

"What's the matter, Daisy?" asked her sister.

"Oh! such a wicked butcher-man came to my house," answered Daisy, in
smothered tones from beneath her hat.

"What did he do? What makes him wicked?" asked Nellie.

"He sweared at me," moaned Daisy; "oh! he sweared dreadful at me."

"Did he?" said Nellie, much shocked.

"Yes," said Daisy, removing the hat so far that she was able to peep
out with one eye at her sister, "he did. He called me 'Bub,' and I'm
not a bub, now."

Nellie was far from wishing to wound Daisy's feelings afresh; but this
mild specimen of _swearing_ struck her as so intensely funny that she
could not keep back a peal of laughter, - a peal so merry and hearty
that it rejoiced her mother's heart, who had not heard Nellie laugh
like that for several weeks.

Daisy's tears redoubled at this. She had expected sympathy and
indignation from Nellie, and here she was actually laughing.

"You oughtn't to laugh," she said resentfully; "it is very naughty to
swear bad names at little girls, and I shan't eat the meat that bad
butcher-man brought."

Nellie sat down beside the insulted little one, and, smothering her
laughter, said coaxingly, -

"I wouldn't mind that, Daisy. Here, dry your eyes."

"Yes, you would," sobbed Daisy, taking down the hat, but rejecting the
pocket handkerchief her sister offered; "I have a potterhancher of my
own in my pottet;" and she pulled out the ten-inch square article in
question, and mournfully obeyed Nellie's directions.

"He called me a fellow too, and he ought to see I don't wear boys'
clothes," she added.

"How did he come to be talking to you?" asked Nellie, trying to keep a
grave face. "What were you doing?"

"I was very good and nice, just sitting on the grass, and making a
wreaf of some clovers Carrie gave me," explained Daisy, piteously, "and
he brought the meat in, and said, 'Good-morning, bub; you're a nice
little fellow!' and I'm not, now."

"Here he comes again," said Nellie, as a jolly, good-natured-looking
butcher's boy came around from the other side of the house.

"I shan't let him see me," cried Daisy, and, scrambling to her feet,
she rushed into the house before the disturber of her peace came near
her again.

A moment later Nellie heard her rippling laugh over some trifle which
had taken her attention, and she knew that the April shower was over,
and sunshine restored.

This little incident had so diverted Nellie's thoughts, and amused her
so much, that for the time she forgot the subject of the conversation
with her mother, which had been so abruptly broken off; and when she
returned to her, she laughed merrily again as she related the cause of
Daisy's trouble, and her indignation at having been taken for a boy.

Mrs. Ransom did not return to it. She thought that enough had been
said, and she agreed with her husband in thinking that Nellie would
feel a certain satisfaction in believing she exercised her own will and
judgment in the matter.

"Here are the keys, dear," she said, when she and Nellie had laughed
over Daisy's tribulations; "and it is time Catherine had her orders for
the day. Go first to the kitchen and tell her" - and here Mrs. Ransom
gave Nellie the necessary directions, which she in her turn was to
repeat to the cook. Then she was to ask the woman what was needed from
the store-room, and to give out such things.

"What's Nellie going to do?" asked Carrie, who had come in, and stood
listening while her mother gave Nellie her directions.

"I'm going to be mamma's housekeeper," said Nellie, feeling at least a
head taller with the importance of all this responsibility.

"Oh!" said Carrie, looking at her with admiration, and quite as much
impressed as she was expected to be.

"You can come with me, and see me, if you want to," said Nellie.

"And can I help her, mamma?" asked Carrie.

"Yes, if Nellie is willing, and can find any thing for you to do,"
answered Mrs. Ransom.

Thoroughly interested now in her new undertaking, Nellie had for the
time quite forgotten lessons, "Bible subjects," and other tasks, till
Carrie said, -

"What are you going to do, Nellie, when you have finished keeping
house?"

"I think it will take me a good while to do all the housekeeping,"
replied Nellie. "When that is finished, I will see. Oh! I'll go down to
the beach with you, Carrie, if mamma says we may."

Carrie looked very much pleased.

"Then you're not going back to that old Bible lesson this morning?" she
asked.

"Why, Carrie! what a way to speak of the Bible!"

"Oh!" said Carrie, rather abashed, "but I didn't mean the Bible was
old, Nellie; only the long, long lessons you have been studying out of
it are so tiresome, and make you so busy."

Nellie understood by this how much Carrie had missed her company since
she had been so taken up with her self-chosen task; and again she felt
that she had been rather selfish in letting it occupy so much of her
time.

Here Daisy met them, and, asking where they were going, was told
of Nellie's new dignity. Of course she wanted to "help" too; and,
permission being given, she marched first into the kitchen, and
informed the cook, -

"Me and Carrie and Nellie are going to keep the house."

Nellie gave her orders with great correctness, Daisy repeating them
after her, in order that the cook might be sure to make no mistake,
except when Nellie told what was to be done with the meat, when she
declared she should not "talk about the meat that wicked butcher
brought," and turned her back upon it with an air of offended dignity.

Her resolution held good throughout the day, for at dinner she
positively refused to eat of either the meat or poultry brought by
the "swearing butcher-man," and even held out against the charms of a
chicken's wish-bone which mamma offered.

Next to the store-room, where the two younger children looked on
with admiring approbation, while Nellie gave out to the cook such
articles as were needed for the day, and then saw that tea-canisters,
sugar-bowls, cake-basket, &c., were all in proper order. The filling of
the cake-basket and sugar-bowls was a particularly interesting process,
especially when Nellie, following mamma's daily practice, bestowed
"just one lump of sugar" on each of her little sisters, taking care
to select the largest, and then sweetening her own labors with a like
chosen morsel.

It was great fun also to ladle out rice, break the long sticks of
macaroni, and, best of all, to weigh out the pound of raisins required
for the pudding.

Daisy, however, permitted herself some liberties under the new reign
which she would not have ventured upon under her mother's rule; and,
not considering herself obliged to obey Nellie, was decoyed away
by the cook under the pretence of shelling peas for dinner. Having
opened about five pods, little white teeth as well as her ten fingers
assisting at the operation, and letting about every other pea roll
away, she concluded that she was tired of helping Catherine, and went
back to Nellie, who was fortunately by this time quite through with her
arrangements in the store-room.

"Mamma," said Nellie, when she had returned to her mother and reported
how successfully she had fulfilled all her orders, - "mamma, I do not
think the store-room is in very good order."

"I know it is not, dear," replied Mrs. Ransom, "and I have been
wishing to have it properly arranged, but have not really felt able to
attend to it."

"Couldn't I do it, mamma?" asked Nellie, full of zeal in her new
character.

"It would be rather hard work for you; but some day next week we will
go there together and overlook things; after which I will have it
dusted and scrubbed, and then you shall arrange it as you please. The
people who hired this house before we had it were not as neat as my
Nellie, I fear. But I am thankful to find that there are no mice about;
I have not heard one since we have been here."

Mrs. Ransom's dread of a mouse was a matter of great wonder to her
children, who could not imagine how she could be so afraid of such
"cunning little things;" and, although she really did try to control
it, it had the mastery over her whenever she saw or heard one, and was
a source of great and constant discomfort to her.




[Illustration]




IV.

_A COURTSHIP._


"WILL you come to the beach now, Nellie?" said Carrie.

"Yes, if mamma has nothing more for me to do," said Nellie; and mamma
telling her that there was nothing at present, they were soon ready and
on their way; Daisy also being allowed to accompany them on promise of
being very, very good and obedient to Nellie.

Nellie, wise, steady little woman that she was, was always to be
trusted to take care of the other children, and to keep them out of
mischief, so long as she gave her mind to it; and her mother had no
fear that it would be otherwise now, after the lesson of last night.
Poor Nellie! the sight of that black bump on Daisy's forehead was
sufficient reminder in itself, even had she not formed such good
resolutions. _She_ felt it, I believe, more than Daisy did.

An unexpected pleasure awaited Nellie and Carrie when they reached the
beach, for there they met, not only the little Bradfords, whom they now
saw frequently, but also Lily Norris and Belle Powers, who had come to
pass the day with their friends, Maggie and Bessie.

Daisy and Frankie Bradford, who were great cronies and allies, were
soon busily engaged in making sand-pies, and conveying them in their
little wagons to imaginary customers who were supposed to live upon the
rocks.

Nellie had brought her doll with her. This was a doll extraordinary,
a doll well known and far famed. It had been presented to Nellie by
old Mrs. Howard, as a reward for her kind and generous behavior to her
little grand-daughter Gracie, at a time when the latter had fallen
into trouble and disgrace at school. To the young residents of Newport,
the chief claim to distinction of the Ransom family lay in the fact
that in their midst resided this wonderful creation of art. Mr. and
Mrs. Ransom enjoyed the glorious privilege of being "the father and
mother of the girl that has the doll." Nellie herself was considered
the most enviable of mortals, while her brothers and sisters shared
a kind of reflected glory. To meet Nellie when she had her treasure
out for an airing was an event in the day; and frantic rushes were
made to windows or down to gates and palings when the announcement was
made, - "The doll is coming!"

It was impossible that Nellie should not be gratified by all this
flattering homage to her darling, and she received such tributes with a
proud but still generous satisfaction, for she would always take pains
to walk slowly when she saw some eager eye fastened upon the doll,
or carry it so as to afford the best view of all the beauties of its
toilet; and, choice and careful as she was of it, she was always ready
when she met any of her young friends to allow them to take and nurse
it for a while.

Of late, however, even this doll had been neglected and put aside in
the press of work which Nellie had laid upon herself; and this was the
first time in several days that she had appeared in public. So Nellie
was eagerly welcomed, partly on her own account, partly on that of her
daughter; and after the latter had been duly admired, and ah'ed and
oh'ed over to the heart's content of her mamma and the spectators,
she was intrusted to Belle's tender care for a while, Lily having the
promise of being allowed to take her afterwards.

Nellie was never a child who cared much for romping play or frolic;
quiet games and amusements suited her much better; therefore her
playmates were rather surprised when, having seen her doll safe in
Belle's keeping, she proposed a race down the length of the beach, to
see who could first reach a given rock she pointed out. For Nellie,
like many another little child - ay, and grown person too - when they
mean to turn over a new leaf, was now disposed to run into the opposite
extreme, and to strive to make up for lost time by taking an amount of
play and exercise to which she was not accustomed at any time.

Maggie and Lily readily agreed to her proposal, though they were rather
surprised at it, as coming from her; but Bessie declined, not being
fond of a romp, and Carrie, too, chose to stay with Bessie and Belle.

Nellie, however, soon found that strength and breath gave way,
unaccustomed as she had been for weeks past to a proper amount of
exercise; and she was forced to sit down upon a stone and watch Lily
and Maggie as they sped onwards towards the goal.

They flew like the wind, and it was hard to tell which was there the
first, for they fairly ran against one another as they reached it,
and, laughing and breathless, turned to look back for Nellie, who
smilingly nodded to them from the distance.

Meanwhile Bessie, Belle, and Carrie were amusing themselves more
quietly.

"Do you think your mamma would let you come to our house this
afternoon?" said Bessie to Carrie. "Mamma said we might ask you."

"Oh, yes! I'm sure she would. She quite approves of your family,"
answered Carrie.

"I should think she might," said Belle.

"Mamma thought we'd all like to have a good play together," said
Bessie. "And, besides, we have some new things to show you, Carrie. We
have some white mice that Willie Richards gave us; and they are just as
tame, as tame."

"Oh! they're too cunning for any thing," said Belle. "They hide in your
pocket, or up your sleeve, or in your bosom if you'll let them, and eat
out of your fingers, and are not one bit afraid."

"How did you tame them so?" asked Carrie, who was extremely fond of
dumb pets of all kinds.

"We did not do it," said Bessie. "Willie Richards did it before he sent
them to us; but white mice can be tamed very easily. Harry says so."

"Gray mice can be tamed too," said Belle.

"Why, no!" said Carrie. "They always scamper away from you as fast as
they can go."

"Not always," said Belle, with the air of one who had good authority
for her statement. "Not always, do they, Bessie? For there's a little
mouse lives in our parlor at the hotel in New York, and he's just as
tame as he can be, and he comes out every evening to be fed."

"And do you feed him?" asked Carrie.

"Yes," said Belle. "Every evening I bring a piece of bread or cracker
or cake from the dinner table for him, and when papa and I come in the
parlor he is always on the hearth waiting for us. Then papa sits down
by the table, and the mousey runs up his leg and jumps on the table,
and then he takes the crumbs I put down for him. Oh, he's so cunning,
and his eyes are so bright! And he even lets me smooth his fur with my
finger."

"How did you make him so tame?" asked Carrie.

Belle colored and hesitated, looking down upon the doll in her arms,
and seeming as if she would much rather not tell the story; but Carrie,
who was not very quick to see where another's feelings were concerned,
repeated her question.

"Well," said Belle, slowly at first, and then, as she became interested
in her own story, with more ease, "he used to run about the room, but
was not one bit tame, and papa told the waiter to set a trap for him.
And the man did; and one morning when we went in the room the little
mouse was caught. And he looked so cunning and so funny, peeping
through the bars of the trap, that I felt very sorry about him; and,
when the man was going to take him away to drown him, I cried very
hard, and begged papa to let me keep him in the trap. And because I
felt so badly papa said I might, but I must feed him, so he would not
starve; and he very 'spressly told me I must not lift the door of the
trap, for fear the mouse would run out. Papa thought I would soon grow
tired of him, - he said so afterwards; but I did not, and I grew very
attached to that mouse, and he to me. But - but" - Belle's voice faltered
again, and she looked ashamed - "but I disobeyed my papa, and one day I
opened the door of the trap a te-en-y little bit, just a very little
bit; but the mouse ran out just as quick, as quick, and scampered away
to the fireplace where his hole was."

"Did your papa scold you?" asked Carrie, as Belle paused to take breath.

"No," answered Belle, remorsefully, "he didn't _scold_ me, but he
looked very sorry when I told him. He always looks sorry at me when I
am not good, but he never scolds me, and that makes me feel worse than
if he was ever so cross to me."

"Well, what about the mouse?" asked Carrie.

"That very evening I was sitting on papa's knee, talking to him,"
continued Belle, "and what do you think? why, the first thing I saw was
the mouse on the hearth looking right at me. I had a maccaroon, and
papa crumbled a little bit of it on the floor, and the mouse came and
eat it. Then he played about a little while; we kept very still, and at
last he ran away. But the next night, and every night after that, he
came; and at last one evening, first thing we knew, he jumped on papa's
foot and ran up his leg; and now every evening he does that, and sits
on the table till I feed him."

"How cunning!" said Carrie. "I wish I had one; but I'd rather have a
white mouse."

"The white mice are prettier, but then they are stupider than Belle's
mouse," said Bessie. "They don't do much but eat and go to sleep. I
don't think they are so very interesting."

"There's Daisy crying again," said Carrie. "Daisy, what's the matter
now?" raising her voice.

Daisy only cried the louder, and the three children ran forward to
where she sat upon the sand, the picture of woe; while Frankie,
busily engaged in piling sand pies into his wagon, remained sublimely
indifferent to her distress. Nellie, Maggie, and Lily came running back
also to see what was the matter.

"What _are_ you crying for, Daisy?" asked Nellie. "Frankie, do you know
what is the matter with her?"

"He told me he'd marry me if I let him mix the pies," sobbed the
distressed Daisy; "and now he won't."

"Now, Daisy, you ought to be ashamed to say that," cried Frankie,
stopping short with a pie in each hand, and looking with a much
aggrieved air at his little playmate. "Yes, I did promise to marry her
if she'd let me make the pies," he continued, turning to Nellie, "and
so I will; but I promised three other girls before her, and so I told
her she'd have to wait till they were all dead, and she wouldn't have
patience, but just went and cried about it. I can't help it if so many
girls want to marry me," added the young sultan, tenderly laying his
sand pies in the wagon.

Daisy had ceased her cries to listen to Frankie's statement of the
case; but her spirits were so depressed at once more hearing this
indefinite postponement of her matrimonial prospects that she broke
forth into a fresh wail of despair.

"Oh, Daisy!" said Nellie, "what shall we do with you: you're growing to
be a real cry-baby."

"Yes," said Master Frankie, seeing his way at once to a peaceful
solution of his difficulties. "And I shall never, never marry a
cry-baby. You'd better hurry up and be good, Daisy."

At this terrible threat, Daisy's shrieks subsided into broken sobs;
and Frankie, touched by the extreme desolation of her whole aspect,
farther consoled her, by telling her if she would dry her eyes and be
good, he would let her "make two mixes, and marry her besides." At
which condescension on the part of her chosen lord and master, Daisy
was in another instant beaming with smiles, and thrusting her dimpled
hands into the wet sand; and the older children left her and Frankie to
their play.

All but Bessie, that is, who lingered behind to give her brother a
little moral lecture.

For Bessie's sense of justice had been shocked by Frankie's
arrangements, and the hard bargain he had driven with the devoted
Daisy, who upon all occasions submitted herself to his whims, and
let him rule her with a rod of iron. Moreover, Bessie considered his
gallantry very much at fault, and thought it quite necessary to speak
her mind on the subject.

"Frankie," she said with gravity, "you are selfish to Daisy, I think.
You ought to let her make half the pies."

"I'm letting her do two mixes," said Frankie; "and, besides, she said I
needn't let her do any if I'd marry her. That's fair."

"No, it's not. It's not fair, nor polite either," said Bessie,
reprovingly. "You oughtn't to make it a compliment for you to marry
Daisy. It is a compliment to you."

This was a new view of the subject to Frankie, and, as he stood gazing
at Daisy and considering it, Bessie added, -

"Anyhow, you ought to let her do half. You're not good to be so
selfish."

Daisy meanwhile had been balancing in her own mind the comparative
advantages of the present and the future good, and came to the
conclusion that she had made a foolish choice, and that the mixing of
sand pies was more to be desired than the promise, whose fulfilment
seemed so far distant; and now, with a deprecating look at Frankie, she
made known this change in her sentiments.

"I b'lieve I'd rafer mix half the mud than be your wife, Frankie," she
said. "I'll just 'scuse myself and do the pies."

"Oh! I'll let you do half," said Frankie, encouragingly, "and marry you
too, Daisy. I really will."

But Daisy, before whom Bessie's words had also placed the matter in a
new light, now felt the advantage of her position, and was disposed
to make the most of it, as she found Frankie inclined to become more
yielding.

"I'll see about marrying you," she said coquettishly, "but I _will_ do
half the pies."

"Yes, yes, you shall," replied Frankie, now extremely desirous to
secure the prize the moment there seemed to be a possibility of its
slipping through his fingers; "and you'll really marry me, won't you,
Daisy?"

"Maybe so," said Daisy, a little victorious, as was only natural, at
finding the tables thus turned.

"Ah! not maybe, Daisy. Say you truly will, dear Daisy, darling Daisy.
You shall mix all the pies, Daisy, and I'll be your horse, too."

"I'll tell you anofer time," said Daisy, much enjoying the new position
of affairs.

"Ah! no, Daisy," pleaded the now humble suitor: "if you'll promise now,
I'll - I'll - Daisy, I'll give you my white mice."

Daisy plumped herself down upon the sand, and gazed at Frankie,
astounded at the magnitude of this offer, in return for the promise
which, in her secret soul, she was longing to give.

"Maybe your mamma won't let you give 'em away," she said at length; and
then, with relenting in her generous little heart, she added, "and I
wouldn't like to take 'em from you, Frankie: it's too much."

"Yes, yes, mamma would let me," said Frankie, eagerly. "Bessie has a
pair, and Maggie a pair, and I a pair; and mamma said that was too
many, and she won't mind one bit if I give you mine. And I don't care
for them at all, Daisy, they're such stupid things. I'd just as lieve
give them to you."

"Well," said Daisy, shaking her curls at him, "then I'll promise; and I
only want to mix half the pies, Frankie, I wouldn't do 'em all, oh! not


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