Joanna H. (Joanna Hooe) Mathews.

Nellie's Housekeeping online

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turning away.

"You needn't go away. Ruth wants to dress you," said Nellie. "She'll
just bring you back. Just see how cunning the baby is," for she saw
Carrie was out of humor, and would have tried to soothe and interest

"I want Daisy to be dressed first," said Carrie, who was evidently
anxious to be away. "I'm going to see if she can't."

"Daisy is with Frankie, and mamma won't make her come," said Nellie. "I
wouldn't bother mamma about it, Carrie, she's lying down."

"Oh, yes, Daisy always has to have every thing _she_ wants," said
Carrie, coming reluctantly into the room, but keeping away on the other
side, "and I shan't have _you_ telling me all the time what to do and
what not to do. I haven't got to mind you."

The parti-colored ball remained motionless in Nellie's fingers, as she
gazed in surprise at her sister, who walking to the window, planted
her elbow on the sill, and her chin in her hand; the very picture of a
sulky, ill-humored child.

Nellie could not think what she meant by her ugly speech. She had
spoken very gently to Carrie, and without any undue authority, either
of tone or manner, meaning only to suggest, not to command. But perhaps
Carrie thought she had taken too much upon herself in the store-room.
That was unreasonable, for she had come there of her own accord,
begging that she might be allowed to help, and seeming quite ready to
put herself under Nellie's orders. Yes, that must be it, and Nellie
herself felt a little resentment at her sister's behavior.

But it was not Nellie's way to speak when she was angry; she waited
till she could do so without temper, and then said gently.

"But, Carrie, dear, you know some one had to - " give orders she
was about to say, but wise little woman that she was, changed the
obnoxious word - "had to say what was to be done, and mamma put me in
charge there 'cause I am her housekeeper now. I had to tell you what to
do with every thing."

Nellie could not help - what little girl could have helped? - a slight
consciousness of authority and satisfaction in her position as mamma's
right hand woman; but Carrie did not notice that so much as her words,
which brought fresh cause for uneasiness to her guilty conscience. What
"things" did Nellie mean? The mice?

"Is Johnny upstairs?" asked Nellie, receiving no answer to her last
speech, but still wishing to make peace.

"I should think you'd know he hadn't come home from school," snapped

"I forgot; I really don't know at all what time it is," said Nellie.
"What were you doing upstairs then?"

"Let me be," was the answer Carrie gave to this; and Nellie was silent,
feeling, indeed, that in such a mood she was best let alone.

Little she guessed of the cause of all this ill-temper, however.

For what had Carrie been doing upstairs? Can you imagine?

Watching her opportunity when she thought no one was observing her, she
had run to the wood-closet, seized the box containing the mice; and had
actually been naughty enough to bring it upstairs, carry it away to the
garret, and there hide it behind some old furniture.

But now what was she to do with the mice? How was she to tame them, now
that she had them? What pleasure or good could they be to her?

How she wished that she had done as Nellie told her, and taken the box
at once to Catherine. Now she was afraid to do it.

And yet she tried to persuade herself that there was no reason she
should not have the mice as long as she kept them out of mamma's way;
that she had as much right to decide what was to be done with them as
Nellie; that it was not fair that Daisy should keep her pets any more
than herself.

But why, if all this were true, did Carrie fear to betray her secret;
why was she so guilty and miserable?

Presently Ruth returned, rather incensed at finding Carrie in the
nursery, and at having had "so much trouble for nothing."

Neither nurse nor child being in a very good humor, the process of
dressing Carrie was not likely to be a very pleasant one; and seeing
this, and that baby was growing restless, Nellie thought she had better
wait till it was accomplished.

There was need for the children to be helpful and obliging in Mrs.
Ransom's nursery. Pour little girls, one a young infant, who all
required more or less care, to say nothing of the occasional calls of
their brothers, gave enough to do; and as their now invalid mother was
able to assist but little, it was necessary that the older ones should
learn to help themselves and one another.

Daisy, in spite of the floods of tears which had been so frequent
until within the last few days since she had taken so much pains
to check them, was, as Ruth said, "the blessedest child to have to
do with," giving no trouble beyond what her tender age required;
patient, obliging, and winsome. Nellie was generally ready to give any
assistance that was needed, to tend baby awhile, put Daisy to bed, or
any other little office not too hard for her; and few little girls of
her age do as much for themselves as she was accustomed to do. And
since she had resolved to give all the help she could to mamma, she did
all this pleasantly and cheerfully; often, as in the present case, not
waiting to be asked, but taking up the small duty of her own free will.

"She's the wisest head of her age ever I saw, has Miss Nellie," the
admiring nurse would say to Mrs. Ransom, when some little thoughtful
act had lightened her labors, or put aside the necessity of calling
upon her feeble mistress.

But poor Carrie had neither Nellie's gentle consideration, nor Daisy's
sunny temper, and when, as now, she was not in a good humor, she was a
sore trial to the nurse; and seeing that there was every probability
of a stormy time, Nellie decided to stay and amuse the baby till Ruth
should be at leisure to take it. Mamma would rather wait for her than
to be called upstairs by baby's cries.

It was as she had feared. In three minutes a battle royal was raging
between Carrie and the nurse.

It did not call Mrs. Ransom up to the nursery, as Nellie feared it
would; but it brought her to the foot of the stairs, whence she called
to Carrie in a tone of more sadness than severity; and Carrie did look
and feel ashamed, when Ruth remarked, -

"See there now, how you're worrying your mother. Daisy wouldn't do

But although she now submitted to be dressed, it was still with pouting
looks, and much pettish twisting and wriggling, making Ruth's task
no light one, and taking far more time than it would have done if
Carrie had been patient and amiable. But how could she be patient and
good-humored with that uncomfortable secret weighing on her mind?

Presently, Daisy came running up to the nursery.

"Where's Frankie?" asked Nellie, seeing that she was alone.

"Gone home. Jane came for him," answered Daisy, "and mamma told Jane
to ask Maggie's and Bessie's mamma to let them come and play with you
this afternoon; and Frankie said he'd just as lieve come back too; and
mamma said he could. But, O Nellie! what do you fink? a great big,
ugly, black cat came in the garden-house, and she was so saucy she was
looking at my white mice."

"Was she? Oh, dear!" said Nellie. "Is she there now, Daisy?"

"No, no," said Daisy, "we wouldn't let her stay. Frankie shu'ed her way
far off, and chased her wif a stick, and she put up her back at him,
and was mad at him; but he wasn't 'f'aid of her, not a bit. Nellie, do
black cats eat white mice?"

"I don't know," said Nellie looking uneasy. "Do they, Ruth?"

"You may trust any cat to do that, if she gets the chance," said Ruth.
"Daisy, my pet, did you shut the door of the garden-house after you?"

"Yes, always I shut it, 'fear mamma might some way see the mice,"
answered Daisy. "But the black cat's gone quite, quite away, Nellie."

"She might come back if she has seen the mice, and try to come at
them," said Nellie in a low tone to the nurse.

"It is what I was thinking," said Ruth.

"I'm going to take baby out for a bit when I have these two dressed,
and I'll just walk down that way and see that all's right. It would
just break that lamb's heart if aught happened to her mice. I'll get
along nicely now if you want to go, Miss Nellie. Daisy's no trouble."

Baby delighted in Daisy as a playmate, and was now crowing in the most
satisfied manner as she danced back and forth before her; clapping
her hands and exclaiming, "Jackins and forwis, jackins and forwis."
The interpretation of these mysterious words being, "backwards and

Nellie went downstairs, and explained to her mother why she had
delayed, without making any complaint of Carrie. She told her also of
the black cat, and said she felt uneasy about Daisy's white mice, and
thought she would go and see that the creature had not returned.

Mrs. Ransom herself was disturbed when she heard of the unwelcome
intruder upon the premises, for she, too, feared danger to Daisy's pets.

Her anxiety and Nellie's proved too well founded; for when the latter
reached the garden-house, she discovered the black cat forcing her
way under the door, there being quite an open space between that
and the ground, as the little building was old and somewhat out of
repair. Nellie drove the cat away once more, and put a board against
the aperture; but she could not but feel that Daisy's pets were in
much danger, and she could not bear to think of her distress if such a
terrible fate befel them.

"I think the mice had better be brought up to the house, Nellie," said
Mrs. Ransom, when Nellie returned and made her report.

Carrie heard, for she had come downstairs, meanwhile, and fresh
jealousy of Daisy took possession of her.

"Mamma don't care if Daisy has _her_ mice in the house," she said to
herself, "so I might just as well have mine upstairs. One is no worse
than the other."

Carrie was doing her best to drown her remorseful feelings, and to
persuade herself that she was doing nothing wrong and undutiful, trying
rather to feel injured and martyr-like; but it was up-hill work with
her own conscience. For although she was a little apt to be jealous
of the other children, and fretful at times, she was very seldom
disobedient or regardless of her mother's wishes, and she had not
had one easy moment since she had hidden the mice. But for all that,
she was determined to think herself hardly used, and Daisy preferred
to herself. And it seemed to her as if Nellie must know and meant to
reproach her, when she said in answer to her mother's last words, -

"Oh, no, mamma! it would never do to have the mice brought into the
house, and you made uncomfortable. I am sure Daisy would never wish to
do that, no matter what became of the white mice."

"But I can't have the poor creatures destroyed by that cat," said Mrs.
Ransom, uneasily.

"No," said Nellie, "but perhaps we could - " she hesitated, not knowing
what plan to advise.

"As soon as the boys come home we will see if they can find any way to
make the garden-house secure," said her mother.

Ten minutes later, when Nellie had settled down to her reading, but
with thoughts which would wander away to the garden-house, white mice
and black cat, the boys came in from school, and were speedily made
acquainted with the facts of the case.

This was nuts for Johnny and Bob; and true to that aversion with which
every well regulated boy-mind must regard all animals of her species,
away they rushed in search of the black cat, intending to take the
direst vengeance upon her, if they caught her again threatening Daisy's

And there she was once more, this time forcing her way beneath the wall
of the slight structure, which, never very strong even in its best
days, was now fast tumbling into decay, and presented many an aperture
and crack passable to cats, or other small animals.

She saw the boys, however, before they could catch her; and, either
knowing that she was trespassing, or instinctively aware of what would
befall her if she fell into their hands, she fled before them, and was
presently out of their reach.

Bob and Johnny soon came to the conclusion that the garden-house was
no longer a safe shelter for the white mice. Although it did present a
pretty appearance from the outside, covered as it was with flowering
vines, it was so thoroughly ruinous that they found it would take at
least two or three days to make it at all secure against a determined
and greedy pussy. They might watch and keep her away in the daytime;
but what was to be done at night?

No, Daisy's pets could no longer be left there, if they were to be
saved from pussy's clutches.

The boys went back to the house and reported; asking their mother what
they should do, for there seemed to be no other proper or convenient
place for the white mice.

"I'll think about it," said Mrs. Ransom, who was trying to make up her
mind to allow the mice to be brought into the house, "and will tell
you what to do after dinner. Will they be safe till then, do you think?"

"Yes, mamma," answered Johnny, "for we set Rover to watch there, and
he'll see after that old beast if she comes around again, but we can't
keep him there all day, and she's sure to do it some time, if we leave
the mice there."

"Don't trouble Daisy about it," said Mrs. Ransom, "there is no need to
tell her just now."





ROVER had to be released by and by after dinner, of course, but it did
not seem to matter so much by that time, for Daisy went to her pets,
and the cat would not dare to come near them so long as she was there.

So every one believed; but this proved to be a mistake, for puss was
more persistent and daring than any one would have thought possible.

"Johnny," said Mrs. Ransom, when Daisy had gone, "could you not arrange
some place up in the garret where Daisy could keep her mice and they
need not come in my way?"

"It is just what I was thinking of, mamma," said Johnny; "you need
never know they were there."

"There now," said Carrie to herself, "so it is no harm at all for me to
have my mice up there. I shall just keep them."

For repentant resolutions of giving up her hidden prize, and disposing
of it in some way without betraying herself, were flitting through
Carrie's mind; but now she put them from her again.

"First, we'll see if we cannot knock up some sort of a support to hold
a hook in the garden-house," said Johnny, "and then we'll hang the cage
upon that. The roof is so old and broken it will not hold; but we may
put something in the wall to keep the cage out of the cat's reach, and
we'll try it before we bring them in the house, mamma."

Daisy fed her mice, as she generally did at this time of the day, - the
little creatures nibbled their food right out of her hand - played with
and fondled them, talking to them the while in a coaxing, crooning
voice of all her affairs, unconscious of the cruel, greedy eyes which
were watching her every motion and those of her pets.

For Rover having gone, puss had made the most of her opportunities, and
came creeping slowly and stealthily beneath bushes and behind walls,
till she reached the garden-house once more; and climbing to the roof
sat watching the little child and her playthings through a hole in the

And, by and by, this naughty _bête noir_ thought her chance had come.

"Now, you ducky darlin's," said Daisy, "I b'lieve it's time for Frankie
to come back to my house and play wif me. So you must go in your cage
while I go and see, and we'll come back and play here where you can see
us. No, you needn't want to go into the house wif me. Mamma don't like
you, which is a great, great pity; but she can't help it."

The mice seemed strangely reluctant to go back in their cage, whether
it was that they only scented their watchful enemy, or that they had
caught a glimpse of the glittering eyes looking down upon them; for
one, with a squeak of terror, fled into the depths of Daisy's pocket,
and the other would have followed had she not caught him in her hand
and stopped him.

"No, no," she said, "you'll have to go into your cage, Dot, and you
too, Ditto. Peoples have to do what they don't want to sometimes, and
so do mouses. I've found that out," and Daisy shook her head with the
air of one who has made a novel and important discovery.

She put the mice into the cage, where they speedily hid themselves
beneath their bed, shut and fastened the door and set it upon the
floor, believing that she would return in a moment with Frankie and let
them out again.

Then she ran away to the house, where, as she had expected, she found
Frankie who had just arrived with his sisters, Maggie and Bessie. They
had not cared to wait till their mother came to take Mrs. Ransom to
drive, but had begged and received permission to walk over that they
might have the longer afternoon for their visit.

Daisy and Frankie were off together immediately, and the four elder
children were settling the question of "what shall we do first?" when
the whole household were startled by a succession of fearful shrieks
from Daisy, accompanied by shouts of defiance and threats from Frankie.
The sounds came from the garden-house; and Daisy's cry was not the
dismal, low wail she set up at times over some minor trouble, but an
unmistakable scream of terror and pain.

Away ran every one to see what was the matter; mother, brothers and
sisters, guests and servants; even Ruth, baby in arms, tearing down the
stairs to follow the rest.

The garden-house reached, the trouble proved not as serious as might
have been feared; but quite enough so to warrant all the uproar from
the two distressed little ones.

There crouched Daisy in an ecstasy of terror, bending over her
white mice, which she held cuddled up in her lap; never ceasing her
screams and calls for help, while Frankie brandishing a hoe stood
boldly between her and the black cat, which with glaring eyes, back
erect, stood spitting and growling at the two children, determined no
longer to be balked of her prey. For this was no tame puss accustomed
to be fed, and having a comfortable home; but a wild, stray cat,
half-starved, and now quite furious at seeing her intended prize once
more rescued.

Not fairly rescued, if she could help it. Long waiting for the dainty
meal and many disappointments had made her desperate; and more than
once she had nearly sprung past the brave little Frankie, who, resolute
as the brute herself, fairly stood his ground, and faced her at every
turn, calling aloud, -

"Hi! you there! you'd better be off with yourself. Now, you; you'll
catch it! I'll give it to you! I'll hoe you if you don't look out! You
want to be hoed, do you? I won't let her get them, Daisy. Run, Daisy,

But Daisy was past running; terror had taken all power from her save
that of shielding her pets, as she best could, against her bosom, and
shrieking aloud for help.

It was well that help was so close at hand, or the situation of the two
little ones might indeed have become dangerous; but at the sight of so
many flocking to the rescue, the cat turned and fled, pursued by the
boys with stones and sticks, - and who could blame them in such a case
as this? - but escaped without much hurt from the missiles which they
threw with better will than aim.

The story was soon told: how, coming to the garden-house and pushing
open the door, the first thing that presented itself to the eyes of
Daisy and Frankie was the black cat, with one paw actually in the
cage, the mice squeaking in terror, and shrinking from the cruel claws
outstretched for their destruction; how Frankie had snatched the cage
away, and the mice had immediately fled to the protection of Daisy's
bosom, whence the cat had once tried to tear them.

How the brave little knight had fought her off, and then tried to stand
between his tiny lady-love and farther harm, the new-comers had seen
for themselves; how devotedly Daisy herself had clung to her darlings,
and how furious their enemy had been, was testified by the poor little
woman's torn and scratched arm, bleeding from the adversary's claws,
and the bent and twisted bars of the cage.

It was plainly to be seen that the garden-house was no longer a safe
place for the white mice, not even until such time as the boys could
arrange some contrivance for hanging up the cage; and now Mrs. Ransom
almost forgot her dread of them in her sympathy over her poor little
girl's distress and bleeding arms.

Poor little dimpled white arms! even now they would not relax their
sheltering hold of the white mice, but held them firmly clasped.

Daisy was speedily carried to the house, and once more seated, white
mice and all, on her mother's lap, while her scratches were bathed and
bound up.

"A wag on it" was Daisy's sovereign remedy for every thing in the shape
of a wound or bruise.

"Let me put your mice away, darling," said Nellie, ever mindful of her
mother's antipathy.

"Oh, no! don't take 'em out. Mamma might see 'em, and she can't bear
'em," sobbed Daisy, holding the little skirt tighter than ever. "And
oh, dear! I b'lieve I'll have to give 'em back to Frankie, 'cause I
can't let 'em live in the garden-house for that black old dreadful cat
to eat them up, and I s'pose mamma wouldn't want _me_ to live there all
the time, even with some one to take care of me."

No, indeed, mamma thought not, as she folded the darling closer in her
arms, and bade her cry no more; for her white mice should come into the
house, and the boys should arrange a place for them where they would
be quite safe from black cats and other enemies.

To see the change in Daisy's face!

"Mamma! don't you mind? don't you weally mind? Won't they trouble you?"

It was not possible for Mrs. Ransom to say that she would not be
annoyed by the presence of the white mice in the house, even though
they might never come under her own eye; and, although for Daisy's sake
she put aside her own feelings, the loving heart of the little one
detected the slight reluctance with which she spoke.

"Mamma couldn't have your white mice destroyed, darling," she answered;
"and if Daisy is so careful for mamma, mamma must be careful for Daisy.
So let the mice come Suppose you let Nellie take them now."

Opening her skirt, Daisy revealed the mice, still trembling and
quivering with their fright; and, seeking to hide themselves, the one
made for the bosom of her dress, the other unluckily ran over mamma's
lap looking for some place of refuge. Johnny's hand was over him in an
instant, but not before his mother had grown white to the lips, and in
spite of a strong effort she could not control a shudder of disgust.
This did not escape Daisy.

"Better put 'em away, quick, 'way far off, Johnny," she said in a
pitiful little voice, and resigning the other mouse to his care; and
Johnny carried both away.

Daisy was used to petting; but in consequence of her misfortunes, and
the honorable wounds she had received in the skirmish, she was so
overwhelmed with attentions and caresses, not only from her own family,
but also from Maggie and Bessie, that she was presently consoled, and
beguiled from mamma's lap to the piazza, where she was seated in state
among her admirers, and continued to be made much of.

Frankie also came in for a share of the honors he had so fairly won
by his heroic defence of his little lady-love and her property; but
he presently concluded he had had enough of them, and would like
to go upstairs with the older boys and watch them at their work. He
would fain have persuaded Daisy to go with him, but she still remained
mournful and subdued, and preferred to stay with the little girls and
be petted.

For there was a great weight on Daisy's little mind, and a great
purpose working there, - a purpose which required much resolution and
much self-sacrifice; and it was hard to bring her courage to the point.
She had small thought for what the other children were saying, as she
sat nestled close to Nellie's side, with her sister's arm about her,
and one of Bessie's hands clasped in her own.

Carrie's thoughts were not more easy than Daisy's, and they were far
less innocent. She was in an agony lest the boys, who were now in the
garret, should discover her secret. And there was Frankie with them!
Frankie, who had a faculty for finding that which he was not intended
to find, for seeing that which he was not intended to see, for hearing
that which he was not intended to hear; who, full of mischief and
curiosity, went poking and prying everywhere, and whose bright eyes and

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Online LibraryJoanna H. (Joanna Hooe) MathewsNellie's Housekeeping → online text (page 6 of 10)