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for any thing."

This amicable agreement being sealed with a kiss, and peace thoroughly
restored, Bessie left the two little ones to their "mixes," and went
back to the others, whom she entertained with an account of Frankie's
complete defeat and submission. They rather rejoiced at it, for the way
in which Frankie usually lorded it over the submissive Daisy did not at
all agree with their ideas of propriety.

"But do you think Frankie really means to give the white mice to
Daisy?" asked Nellie.

"Why, yes," answered Bessie, "he _promised_, you know."

"But," said Nellie, doubtfully, "I do not think mamma would like Daisy
to have them."

"Oh! she needn't mind," said Maggie. "Our mamma did say she was sorry
Willie Richards had sent three pair; and Frankie has not really cared
for his since the first day. They're too quiet for him. Daisy might
just as well have them."

"But I don't know if mamma would care to have them in the house," said
Nellie. "She is so afraid of mice."

"What, a grown-up lady afraid of white mice!" said Lily.

"Well, she's afraid of _real_ mice," said Nellie, "and I'm not sure she
wouldn't be of white ones."

"Pooh! I don't believe she would be," said Carrie. "I wish we could
have them."

"I shouldn't think your mother would mind _white_ mice," said Belle:
"you can ask her."

"You're all to come to our house this afternoon, you know," said
Maggie, "and then you can see them; and bring Daisy too, Nellie: we
want her."

After a little more talk and play, the children separated, Nellie going
home with her sisters, and promising to come over to Mrs. Bradford's
house as early in the afternoon as possible.

"What makes you go home so soon?" asked Carrie, supposing that it was
those "horrid lessons" which took Nellie away.

"I thought mamma might have something else she wanted me to do," said
Nellie, "and we have been down on the beach a good while."

"What makes you do the housekeeping," asked Carrie, - "just to help
mamma, or because you like to?"

"Mamma asked me to do it to help her," said Nellie, without a thought
of her mother's real object in proposing the plan, "but I do like to do
it, it is real fun."

"I'd like to do something to help mamma," said Carrie.

"Me too," put in Daisy.

"I think you both could do something to help her, if you chose," said
Nellie, with a little hesitation; for she was a modest, rather shy
child, who never thought it her place to correct or give advice even to
her own brothers and sisters.

"How can I?" asked Carrie, and, -

"How could I?" mimicked Daisy, looking up at her sister as she trotted
along by her side.

"Well," said Nellie, "I think you, Carrie, could be more obedient to
mamma."

"I'm sure I do mind mamma," said Carrie, indignantly. "I never do any
thing she tells me not to."

"No," said Nellie, "you never do the things she tells you you
must _not_ do, and you generally do what she says you _must_ do;
but - but - perhaps you won't like me to say it, Carrie, but sometimes
you do things which mamma has not forbidden, but which we both feel
pretty sure she would not like; and then, when she knows it, it makes
trouble for her."

Carrie pouted a little, she could not deny Nellie's accusation, but
still she was not pleased.

"Pooh!" she said, "I don't mean that. I mean I want to do some very
great help for her, something it would be nice to say I had done."

"You're not large enough for that yet," said Nellie, "and I don't
believe you could help her more than by being good all the time."

"Then why don't you be good all the time?" said Carrie, not at all
pleased. "I shouldn't think it was a great help to mamma to let Daisy
fall out of bed."

Nellie colored, but made no reply.

Not so Daisy, who at once took up arms in Nellie's defence. Seizing
upon her hand, and holding it caressingly to her cheek, she said to
Carrie, -

"Now don't you make my Nellie feel bad about it. That falling out of
bed wasn't any thing much; and my bump feels, oh! 'most well this
morning. I b'lieve it feels better'n it did before I bumped it. Nellie,
what could I do to help mamma?"

"If you tried not to cry so often, Daisy, darling, it would help mamma.
It worries her when you cry, and sometimes you cry for such very little
things."

"Does she think a bear is eating me up when she hears me cry and can't
see me?" asked Daisy, whose mind was greatly interested in these
quadrupeds.

"No," said Nellie, "'cause she knows there are no bears here to eat
little girls; but it troubles her to hear you cry. Besides, you are
growing too big to cry so much, and you don't want people to call you a
cry-baby, do you?"

"No, I don't," answered Daisy, emphatically, "'cause then Frankie won't
marry me. And I don't want to t'ouble mamma, Nellie. But how can I help
crying when I hurt myse'f?"

"Oh! you can cry when you hurt yourself," said Nellie, "but try not to
cry for very little things; and we'll all see what we can do to help
her. I believe I have been selfish in reading and studying all the time
lately, and not thinking much about other people, especially mamma,
so I will give up my books for a while, and try to help her about the
house; and Daisy will try not to cry so much; and - and Carrie will be
careful not to do the things mamma would not like her to do; will you
not, Carrie?"

Carrie made no answer; she was not mollified by Nellie's taking blame
to herself for her own short-comings, but only resented the gentle
reproof she had herself received. Perhaps one reason was that she felt
she deserved it.

But pet Daisy took hers in good part.

"I will," she said, clapping her hands, and looking as if tears were
always the farthest thing possible from her bright face, "I will try.
I won't cry a bit if I can help it, but just laugh, and be good all
the time, unless I hurt myse'f, oh! very, very much, indeed. Nellie,"
pausing in her capers with an air of deep consideration, - "but, Nellie,
if somebody cut off my nose, I ought to cry, oughtn't I?"

"Oh, yes! certainly," laughed Nellie.

"And if a bear _did_ come, I could sc'eam very loud, couldn't I?"

"Yes, whenever that bear of yours comes, you can cry as loud as you
please," answered Nellie.

"Oh! he's not mine," said Daisy. "He's a black man's, I b'lieve. I
'spect he's an old black Injin man's. There's mamma on the piazza, an'
there's two ladies come to see her."

[Illustration]




[Illustration]




V.

_WHITE MICE._


THE ladies with mamma proved to be two aunts who had come to pass a
part of the day with her.

They had brought pretty gifts for each one of the children: a series
of books for Nellie, - for they knew her tastes; a wax doll for Carrie;
and a doll's tea-set for Daisy. So it was no wonder if the white mice
were for the time forgotten in the children's delight over their new
treasures.

Carrie's doll was the handsomest one she had ever owned; not by any
means equal to Nellie's nonpareil, it is true, but she was more than
contented with it.

Nellie was equally pleased with her books; but after looking at the
pictures, and seeing "how very interesting" the series looked, she
resolutely put them away, and devoted herself to the entertainment of
her aunts, believing that as "mamma's housekeeper" a part of this duty
devolved upon her. Moreover, she found that her "help" was needed by
her mother in certain little preparations for this unexpected company.
Perhaps in her new zeal she did more than was needful, and might have
left some things to the servants; but her mother was so glad to see her
occupied and content without her beloved study books, that she put no
check upon her.

Carrie, too, being very anxious to carry out her new resolution of
making herself of use to mamma, was very busy, and more than once had
her fingers where they were not wanted. She ended her performances by a
mistake which alarmed her very much, believing as she did that she had
done great mischief.

The grocery-man having brought several articles from the store at a
time when it was not convenient for the cook to attend to them at once,
they had been left standing upon the kitchen porch. Such as were to go
to the store-room were by Nellie's direction now carried there; but
there were others which were to be left under the cook's care, among
them some rock-salt and some saltpetre.

Carrie being, as I have said, seized with the desire of making herself
useful, went peering from one to another of these things. Seeing the
salt in one bucket, and the saltpetre in another, neither of the
vessels being full, and not knowing there was any difference between
them, she thought the one pail would hold both, and forthwith emptied
the one into the other.

"An' whatever have ye been about then, Miss Carrie?" she heard the next
instant from Catherine the cook, and the woman stood beside her with
uplifted hands, looking from the empty bucket to the full one. "If she
ain't been and emptied all the salt-pater into me rock-salt," she
cried to one of the other servants who was near.

"Oh my! and saltpetre explodes and goes off sometimes, when it is put
with other things," called Nellie, who had heard from the store-room.
"Children, come away from it; it might be dangerous."

Away went Carrie, frightened half out of her senses, and, rushing into
the room where her mother sat with her aunts, cried in a tone of great
distress, -

"Oh! mamma, mamma, I've put all the Peter salt into the other salt, and
Nellie thinks we'll blow up."

The smile with which her mother and the other ladies heard this
alarming announcement somewhat reassured her, and she soon learned that
she had done no such very great harm; but, her brothers Johnny and Bob
hearing the story, it was long before she heard the last of the "Peter
salt."

With so much else to think about, it is not very surprising that the
little girls should forget the white mice; and, even up to the time
of their leaving home to go to Mrs. Bradford's house, Nellie did not
remember to ask her mother if she would object to them.

Daisy, mindful of the advantage she had gained in the morning, and very
much enjoying the position of affairs, was extremely coy and coquettish
with Frankie this afternoon; while he, anxious to return to his old
standpoint with her, would have given her every thing she fancied, and
courted her favor by every means in his power. So you may be sure that
he repeated his offer of the white mice, for which he really did not
care much, so that it was no great act of generosity to give them up to
his young lady-love.

"They're my own, my very own," said the delighted child, showing her
prize to Nellie, and the others. "Frankie says so. Just see this one
run up my arm, and the ofer one is way down in my pottet. Oh! they're
so cunning, and my very own. There comes that one out of my pottet."

Daisy was too much absorbed with her mice to notice the grave, doubtful
face with which Nellie heard her, and watched the tame little creatures
as they ran over her hands and arms, and up to her shoulder. Nellie
could not bear to damp her little sister's pleasure, but she feared
that her mother would be nervous and troubled by their presence.

"Did you ask your mamma if Daisy could have them?" asked Maggie,
noticing the expression of her face, and guessing the cause.

"No, I quite forgot it," answered Nellie; "and I can't bear to
disappoint the dear little thing; and yet - and yet - I am 'most sure
mamma will not like to have them about."

"I don't believe she'd mind," said Bessie. "Our Aunt Annie is
dreadfully afraid of real mice, but she don't mind those white ones a
bit."

"Suppose you take them home with you, and see what your mamma says,"
suggested Maggie. "If she will not let Daisy keep them, then you could
bring them back to-morrow; but I feel 'most sure she will not be
willing to disappoint Daisy. Just see how delighted she looks, Nellie."

"Or if your mamma won't let Daisy keep them, Johnny could bring them
back to-night," said Bessie.

Nellie was still doubtful; but it was quite true that she herself could
not bear to check Daisy's delight by even a hint that their mother
would not admire or tolerate the white mice; and, though against her
better judgment, she resolved to let the child carry them home, and
then act as circumstances, or rather mamma's wishes, dictated. It
would have been better to have told Daisy at once, Nellie knew that;
but she always shrank from inflicting pain, or saying that which was
disagreeable to another; and, besides, she had a faint hope that her
mother might not so much mind the _white_ mice. Miss Annie Stanton's
example was an encouraging one in this matter.

So after an afternoon pleasantly spent in play, during which Daisy
could scarcely be persuaded to part from her new pets for a single
moment, the Ransom children said good-by to their young friends, and
turned their faces homeward.

Daisy walked sedately along by Nellie's side, not skipping and jumping
as was her wont, lest she should disturb the precious white mice, one
of which lay curled in her "pottet," the other in a box also given to
her by Frankie, which she held tenderly clasped with both hands to her
breast. The child's face was radiant as she talked of her treasures,
and every now and then peeped within the box where one of them lay; and
Nellie, watching and listening to her, was ready to believe that mamma
could not and would not have any fear of the pretty little things.

Still!

She, Nellie, had intended to be the first to speak to her mother of
the white mice, and to tell Daisy to keep them out of sight till
mamma should hear of them, and her permission be gained to bring them
into the house. She was just about to speak to Daisy as they entered
the gate, when her attention was called for the moment by Johnny,
who begged her to help him unravel a knot in his fish-line, knowing
well - impetuous fellow! - that her patient fingers were better at that
than his own stronger but less careful ones.

All that needed patience and gentleness it seemed natural to bring to
steady, painstaking Nellie.

But just at the moment that she was engaged with Johnny's line, and
when she had for the time forgotten Daisy and the white mice, the
little one spied her mother coming out upon the piazza; and, anxious to
display her prize, she scampered away over the lawn as fast as her feet
could carry her, Carrie following.

"Mamma, mamma!" cried Daisy as she reached her mother's side, "dear
mamma, just see what Frankie Bradford gave me. All for my own, my very
own, to keep for ever, an' ever, an' ever, he said so."

And, plunging her hand into her pocket, she brought forth one mouse and
laid it in triumph on her mother's lap; then, opening the box, thrust
the other beneath her very eyes, her own chubby face fairly brimming
over with dimples and smiles.

Mrs. Ransom turned a shade paler, shrank back a little, then with a
forced smile said, -

"Yes, darling, very pretty. I dare say you are very much pleased; but
suppose you put this little fellow in the box with his brother. It is a
better place for him than mamma's lap."

"Oh, no! mamma, he'd just as lieve stay in your lap," said Daisy.
"He's not a bit af'aid of you. He likes peoples. See, he'll run right
up your arm;" and, taking the mouse up, she would have laid it upon
her mother's hand, had not Mrs. Ransom drawn back with an unmistakable
shudder and expression of disgust which struck even the unconscious
Daisy.

"Don't, darling, don't," she said hurriedly, but gently, unwilling
to wound her little girl, or to give her any dread of the harmless
creatures, but still feeling that she _could not_ bear them near her.
"Take them away, my pet: you know mamma does not like mice."

"They're not _weally_ mice, mamma," said the little one, opening great
astonished eyes at her mother, but at the same time obeying her words
and drawing farther away with her mice, - "they're only white ones, not
_weally_ ones."

"Yes, darling," said her mother, trying to control her disgust for the
child's sake, "but mamma does not like any mice. Suppose you put them
away."

Just at this moment Nellie ran up the piazza steps.

"O mamma!" she said, seeing the expression of her mother's face, "I
meant to tell you about the white mice before Daisy brought them
near you or showed them to you, but she was too quick for me. Daisy,
darling, take them away; you see mamma does not like them, and you
must take them back to Frankie Bradford."

To have seen Daisy's face!

She could not believe it possible that any one should really have a
fear or dislike to "such cunning little things" as her white mice, and
she stood looking from mother to sister, dismay, disappointment, and
wonder mingling in her expression.

Poor little Daisy!

Nellie hastily explained to her mother, telling her how she had been
detained by Johnny, and that she had not intended to allow her to see
the mice until she had learned whether or no they would annoy her; and
ending by saying that she was sure Daisy would be a good girl and carry
them back to Frankie.

Nellie herself, Mrs. Ransom and Carrie, all expected to hear Daisy
break into one of her dismal wails at this proposal; but, to their
surprise, this did not follow.

True, the little face worked sadly, and Daisy winked her eyes very
hard, trying to keep back the gathering tears, while her bosom, to
which she held the mice tightly clasped, rose and fell with the sobs
she struggled to suppress.

"Mamma," she at last gasped rather than said, - "mamma, I'm trying very
hard: I _am_ trying not to be a cry-baby any more, 'cause Nellie said
that was a good way to be a help to you; but, mamma, oh! I do 'most
_have_ to be a cry-baby if you don't love my mice, 'cause I do love 'em
so."

"My precious lambie!" said the mother; and, forgetting her own aversion
to Daisy's pets in her sympathy for the child, she held out her arms to
her, and gathered her, mice and all, within their loving clasp.

Thoughtful Nellie in another instant had taken the mice from Daisy's
hold, and shutting both within the box laid it on a chair at a distance.

"Mamma," sobbed Daisy, hiding her little pitiful face on her mother's
bosom, "I will take 'em back to Frankie. I didn't know you would
degust 'em so, and I'm sorry I bringed 'em home for you to see. And,
mamma, I wouldn't be a cry-baby, 'deed I wouldn't, if I could help it."

"You can cry a little if you want to, and no one shall call you a
cry-baby, my pet," said her mother, "and" - Mrs. Ransom hesitated; then
after a little struggle with herself, went on - "and you shall keep the
mice, darling. Perhaps we can find a place for them where mamma will
not see them."

Daisy raised her head, showing flushed cheeks and tearful eyes, and a
still quivering lip, although smiles and dimples were already mingling
themselves with these signs of distress, at this crumb of comfort.

Never was such an April face and temper as Daisy Ransom's.

"I'll tell you, mamma," said Johnny, coming to the rescue, "Bob and I
can make a cubby hole for them down in the garden-house, and they can
live there, where they need never bother you. Daisy can go and play
with them there when she wants them. Will that do, Daisy?"

Do? One would have thought so to see Daisy's delight. She was beaming
and dimpling all over now.

"Oh! you dear, darling, loving Johnny," she exclaimed, clapping her
hands; then turning to her mother, and softly touching her cheek, she
asked in the most insinuating little way, -

"Mamma, dear, would they trouble you down in the garden-house? If they
would, I'll do wifout 'em."

Who could resist her sweet coaxing way.

Not her mother, certainly, who, once more kissing the little eager,
upturned face, assured her that she might keep the white mice, and have
them down in the garden-house.

"There's an old bird-cage upstairs in the attic," said Nellie, "why
wouldn't that do for a house for them?"

"Just the thing. I'll bring it," said Johnny, and away he went
upstairs, three steps at once, and returning in less time than would
have seemed possible, with the old, disused bird-cage.

"It is rather the worse for wear," he said, turning it around, and
viewing it disparagingly, "but we'll make it do. I'll cobble it up; and
it will hold the mice anyhow, Daisy."

To Daisy it seemed a palace for her mice. Every thing was _couleur de
rose_ to her now that she was to be allowed to keep her new pets, and
that, as she believed, without any annoyance to mamma.

Johnny and Bob were very kind too. They went to work at once; the
former straightening the bent bars of the cage, the latter finding a
cup and a small tin box for the food and drink of the white mice.

Daisy was enchanted, and stood by with radiant face till she saw her
pets lodged safely within their new house, when she was even satisfied
to have the boys carry them to the garden-house, and to stay behind
herself; mamma telling her that it was too late for her to go out
again.

Never was happier child than Daisy when she laid her little head on her
pillow that night.

"What a nice day this has been!" said Carrie, as the four elder
children sat with their mother upon the piazza, after Daisy had gone to
rest.

"What's made it so wonderfully nice?" asked Johnny.

"Well, I don't know," said Carrie. "I've had a very pleasant time
somehow, and I believe it's 'cause Nellie has been with me 'most all
day, and been so nice. Why, Nellie, you haven't studied one bit to-day."

"Why, no," exclaimed Nellie. "I declare I forgot all about my
practising and sewing, and every thing. I never thought of my books,
I've been so busy. Why didn't you remind me of the practising and
sewing, mamma?"

Her mother smiled.

"I thought it just as well to let you take the whole day for other
things, Nellie," she said: "a whole holiday from books and work will
not hurt you. You _have_ managed to live and be happy through it, have
you not?"

"Why, yes," answered Nellie, astonished at herself, as she recollected
how completely lessons, sewing, and practising had slipped from her
mind; "and it has been a very nice day, as Carrie says. A great deal
pleasanter than yesterday," she added, as she contrasted her feelings
of last night with those of to-night.

There could be no doubt of it. She felt more like herself, better and
happier to-night, than she had done, not only yesterday, but for many
days previous; and here was fresh proof, if her sensible little mind
had needed it, that her father and mother were right, and that "all
work and no play" were fast taking ill effect on both mind and body.

Now it will not do for little girls who are inclined to be idle and
negligent in their studies to find encouragement for their laziness
in Nellie's example, or to think that what was good for her must be
good for them. Nellie was a child who, as you have seen, erred on the
other side, not only from real love for her books, but also from the
desire to learn as much and as fast as her quicker and more clever
schoolmates; but this is a fault with which but few children can be
reproached, and I should be sorry to have my story furnish any one with
an excuse for idleness or neglect of duty.

[Illustration]




[Illustration]




VI.

_THE GRAY MICE._


DURING the next few days Daisy, and not Daisy only, but also the other
children, found great pleasure and satisfaction in the white mice. They
were all very careful not to take them near the house where they might
trouble their mother, and Daisy was so particular about this, and so
grateful to mamma for allowing her to keep them, that whenever she saw
her go out in the garden, or even on the piazza which faced that way,
she would rush to the garden-house, put the cage containing her mice in
a corner behind a bench, throw over that a piece of old cocoa matting
with half a dozen garden-tools piled on top, and then come out in a
state of great excitement, shutting the door behind her, and holding
it fast with both hands till mamma was out of sight. One might have
thought, to see her, that some fierce dog or wild animal was behind
that door, able to unlatch it for itself, and eager to make a fierce
attack on her mother. As for taking them near the house, or letting
them annoy mamma in any way, that Daisy would not have thought of; and
she was so good that when a rainy day came, and she could not go out to
the garden-house, she never whimpered or fretted at all, but cheerfully
submitted to have her pets cared for by the boys.

After that first day of her new experiment, Nellie did not altogether


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