Joanna H. (Joanna Hooe) Mathews.

Nellie's Housekeeping online

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"Mind your own business," snapped Carrie. "Daisy, I never did see a
child who talked so much."

Daisy ventured no further remark, but stood gravely regarding Carrie
with reproving displeasure till Nellie returned, when she turned to her
and said, -

"Nellie, isn't it more politer to say, 'Please wait and talk a little
more anofer time,' than to say, 'Mind your own business, you talk too

"I should think it was. O Daisy, what a funny child you are!" said
Nellie, much amused, and without the least suspicion that Carrie was
the offender in question. "Who has been so rude to you, darling?"

"Never mind," said Daisy. "Carrie, I won't tell tales 'bout you, if you
was rude to me, - oh, so rude!"

Nellie laughed merrily again over Daisy's fancied concealment of
Carrie's sins against her.

"I don't see what there is to laugh about," said Carrie, angrily. "You
think Daisy is so smart."

Nellie was grave in a moment, wondering, as she had had occasion to do
many times during the last twenty-four hours, what could make Carrie so
cross and ready to take offence.

"Any more flour, Nellie?" asked Daisy.

"No more now," answered her sister. "Catherine, the receipt don't _say_
cinnamon, but papa likes it so much, I think I will put some in. It
can't do any harm, can it?"

"Not at all; I'm thinking it would be an improvement myself, Miss
Nellie," answered the cook. "But then I've not a pinch of powdered
cinnamon. I used the last yesterday for the rusks."

"There's some in the dining-room," said Nellie. "Daisy, dear, you can
do that. Go to the sideboard, open the right-hand door, and bring
sister the spice-box you will see on the first shelf. Bring it very

"Yes, I know it," said Daisy, scrambling down from her chair, and
feeling rather important in her errand. "Cafarine, don't I help a whole

"Oh! a wonderful lot! I never saw a darlin' that made herself so
useful;" and with these words of praise sounding in her ears, Daisy
went off happy.

In two minutes she was back again, breathless, with wide-open eyes, the
crimson deepening in her cheeks, but with the spice-box safely in her

"Nellie! and Carrie! and Cafarine! all of yous! what do you fink?" she
cried. "Oh! such a fing!"

"What is the matter?" said all three at once.

"A mouse! a weally mouse in the dinin'-room. Not a white mouse, but
a nigger mouse, - oh! I forgot again, - I mean a colored person mouse,
right in the dinin'-room! What will mamma say?"

"Oh! you must be mistaken, Daisy," said Nellie, while Carrie heard the
words of her youngest sister with a sinking heart.

"No, I'm not, I'm not," persisted Daisy. "It was just as weally a mouse
as it could be. He was under the sideboard, and he ran out and under
the sofa."

"Oh dear!" said Nellie, in dismay at the news. "Catherine, there must
be mice in this house. A good many too."

"Well, no, miss, I think not," said the cook. "This is the first one" -

Down went the bowl into which Carrie was sifting her sugar, not
purposely, though she was only too thankful for the diversion it
afforded, but because she had given a violent start and knocked the
bowl with her elbow in her alarm at Catherine's words. How nearly her
secret had been discovered! But now it was safe at least for the time,
for the bowl was broken, the sugar scattered over the floor, and it was
some moments before order was restored; by which time Nellie was intent
upon cutting out her cakes, marking them with the "jigging iron," and
laying them in the bake-pans, so that she had no thought for mice,
white or gray.

Declaring herself "tired of helping," and feeling that her labors had
brought no very satisfactory result to herself or others, Carrie left
the kitchen and wandered into the dining-room, possibly to see if she
could spy the mouse Daisy had discovered. But no, there was no mouse
there, at least she could find none; and she began to hope that, after
all, the little one had been mistaken.

Oh dear! how wretched and unhappy she felt! She began to think she
would feel better if she went and told mamma, making honest confession
of what she had done, and begging her forgiveness.

Just then Daisy came into the room, and began peeping around in every
corner and under each article of furniture.

"You needn't be looking for that mouse," said Carrie, "he's gone; and,
any way, I don't believe there was any mouse there."

"There was, oh! there was," cried Daisy. "I saw him wif my own eyes
running fast, fast. But, Carrie, Nellie says we'd better not speak
about it 'fore mamma, 'cause it would trouble her."

"I don't believe it. You just thought you saw him," persisted Carrie.

"Now you've said a great many bad fings to me, but that's the baddest
one of all, and I shall leave you alone wif your own se'f," said the
offended Daisy, and walked away with her head held high.

Now it might almost have been imagined that Daisy knew that Carrie's
"own se'f" was no very pleasant company just at this time, and that she
wished to punish her by leaving her "alone wif" it; and, innocent as
she was of any such intention, she certainly had her revenge.

Carrie's own thoughts were not agreeable companions; even less so now
than they had been before Daisy came in, for her half-formed resolution
of telling all to her mother seemed less difficult than it had done
before her little sister had said that Nellie thought it best not to
speak of the mouse to mamma. If mamma was not to hear of one mouse,
it would not do to tell her that several were running at large about
the house; and Carrie could not help feeling and believing that this
was one of the escaped captives. Mice could come downstairs, that she
knew; for once, when she and Nellie had been spending the day with Lily
Norris, they had seen a little mouse hopping down from stair to stair,
and had stood motionless and silent, watching till he reached the
bottom of the flight, when his quick, bright eyes caught sight of them,
and he scampered away in a fright.

And now that it was forbidden, she was seized with a strong desire
to relieve her mind by a full confession to mamma. Then at least she
would be free from the burden of carrying about with her such a guilty

"Oh dear! oh dear!" she said to herself, "whenever I've done anything
naughty before, I could always go and tell mamma, and then she forgave
me, and I felt better; but now it seems as if I did not dare to tell
her this. I'd dare for myself, even if she was very much displeased and
punished me; but I suppose I mustn't dare for her. It is _too_ hard."

Ah, Carrie! so, sooner or later, we always find the way of
transgression; and oftentimes the sharpest thorns in the road are those
which we have planted with our own hands, not knowing that they will
wound our feet, and hold us back when we would retrace our steps.





THE ginger-cakes were a great success. It is true that one's tongue was
bitten, now and then, by a lump of ginger or other spice, not quite as
thoroughly mixed in by Nellie's unaccustomed fingers as it might have
been by those which were stronger and more used to such business; but
who minded such trifles as that, or would refuse to give the little
workwoman the meed of praise she so richly deserved?

Not her papa certainly, who found no fault whatever, and eat enough of
the ginger-cakes to satisfy even his Nellie.

Not even Daisy, who met with such a misfortune as that spoken of above,
while at the tea-table, and who was perceived first by Nellie holding
her tongue with one thumb and finger, while in the other hand she
held out the ginger-cake, regarding it with a puzzled and disturbed

"What's the matter, Daisy?" asked Nellie.

"Somefing stinged my tongue. I b'ieve it was a bee, and I eat him
up," said Daisy, the ever ready tears starting to her eyes. They were
excusable under the circumstances certainly.

"It has been a little bit of ginger," said Mrs. Ransom, who had
suffered in a similar manner, but in silence. "Take some milk, my

"O Daisy, I'm so sorry! I suppose I haven't mixed it well," said
Nellie, looking horrified.

Daisy obeyed her mother's command, which brought relief to her smarting
tongue, and then, turning to Nellie with a most benignant smile,
said, -

"You needn't mind, Nellie. I'd just as lieve have my tongue bited for
your ginger-cakes. Papa," she added, turning to her father, "I s'pose
you're going to be busy after tea, ar'n't you?"

"No, papa has nothing to do but to rest himself this evening," answered
Mr. Ransom.

"Oh dear!" sighed Daisy, taking her tongue between thumb and finger

"Do you want papa to be busy?" asked Mr. Ransom.

"I fought you would be," said Daisy, who found it extremely
inconvenient not to be able to pet the injured member and to talk at
the same moment. "I s'posed you'd have to undo that big parcel that's
in the hall closet; and I fought my tongue would feel a good deal
better to know what's inside of it."

"Oh! that is it, is it?" said Mr. Ransom. "Well, yes, I believe I
_have_ that little business to attend to, so your tongue may get well
right away, Daisy."

Having finished his tea, Mr. Ransom now rose and went out into
the hall, returning with the great parcel which had so excited the
curiosity of his little daughter. This he put down upon the floor
beside his chair, went out once more, and came back again with two
smaller parcels. These he put upon the table, and took his seat before
all three.

Daisy's excitement hardly knew bounds now, especially when there came
from within one of the smaller parcels a little rustle, as though
something alive was inside. Still, her attention was principally taken
up with the "biggest one of all;" and, to her great delight, this was
the first papa opened.

Paper and string removed, two bird-cages, _empty_ cages, presented
themselves to the eyes of the children. What could they be for?

"Papa," said Daisy, "you _couldn't_ be going to catch the little
birdies out the trees, and put them in there, could you?"

"Wait a moment," said her father, taking up the parcel whence the
rustling had come.

This, opened, revealed another bird-cage, this a tiny wooden one, but
oh! delight! containing two beautiful canaries. They looked rather
uncomfortable and astonished, it is true, and as if they might be
thoroughly tired of their narrow quarters, from which Mr. Ransom now
speedily released them, putting one bird in each large cage, which was
soon furnished with fresh seed and water, sugar, and all that birds

"What little beauties! Who are they for, papa?" asked Carrie.

"For little girls who have been helpful and kind to mamma during the
past week," said Mr. Ransom, smiling. "I sent up the cages by express,
but brought on the birds myself. Poor little fellows! they are glad to
have reached their journey's end, I think."

"But there's only two, and there are fee girls," said Daisy, - "one,
two, fee girls," pointing by turns to her sisters and herself, "and
one, two birds. That's not enough, papa."

"Papa thought his Daisy too young to have the care of a bird yet,"
said Mr. Ransom, "but here is what he brought for her; for mamma wrote
to him what a good girl she was, and what pains she was taking to cure
herself of that foolish habit of crying for trifles."

And, unwrapping the last parcel, Mr. Ransom disclosed a box containing
a pretty little dinner-set. At another time Daisy would have been
delighted; but what was a dinner-set to a bird?

She stood looking from one to the other without the slightest
expression of pleasure or satisfaction in her own pretty gift.

"Don't you like it, Daisy?" asked her father.

"Papa, I - I - I would if I could, but - but the birdies are 'live, and
the dinner-set is dead; but I wouldn't cry about it, would I, mamma?"

With which she ran to her mother, and buried her face in her lap. Poor
little woman! it was almost touching to see how hard she struggled
with her too ready tears, which had been so long accustomed to have
their way upon small occasion. There was no mistaking the good-will
and resolution with which she was striving to cure herself of a rather
vexatious and foolish habit; but it was such hard work as can only be
imagined by little girls who have been troubled with a similar failing.

Mamma's praises and caresses helped her to conquer it this time again,
though it was a harder trial than usual, and she altogether declined to
look at the dinner-set, or to take any comfort therein.

"Papa," said Nellie to her father in a low tone, as she and Carrie
stood beside him, their attention divided between the birds and Daisy,
"papa, if you will buy Daisy a bird, I will take care of it for her. I
suppose she is too little to do it herself; but she likes pets so much,
and she was so very sweet and unselfish about her white mice, that I
think she deserves a reward."

Mr. Ransom had not heard the story of the white mice; but he now made
inquiries which Nellie soon answered, Daisy's sacrifice losing nothing
of its merit in her telling; while Carrie, feeling more and more
uncomfortable, but neither caring nor daring to run out of hearing,
and so excite questions, stood idly rubbing her finger over the bars
of her bird's cage. The contrast between her own conduct and that of
her almost baby sister was making itself felt more and more to her own
heart and conscience. If Daisy deserved a bird because she had been
loving and considerate for mamma, surely she did not deserve the same.
How she hoped that papa would give Daisy one!

But no; papa plainly showed that he had no such intention, for when
Nellie concluded with these words, -

"Don't you think you will give Daisy a bird of her own, papa?" he
answered, -

"I think not at present, Nellie. I have spent as much as I can afford
at this time on trifles, and Daisy must wait for her bird till
Christmas, or some other holiday. But she is a darling, blessed,
little child, with a heart full of loving, generous feeling, and I do
not think the less of her sacrifice because I do not find it best to
give her a bird just now. I shall try to give her some other pleasure
which may make up to her for the loss of her white mice."

But it did not seem to Nellie or Carrie, any more than it did to Daisy
herself, that any thing could do this so well as a canary-bird; and,
although they knew that it was of no use to try and persuade papa to
change his mind when he had once resolved upon a thing, they felt as if
they could hardly let the matter drop here.

Daisy had heard nothing of all this, for she was cuddled up in her
mother's lap on the other side of the room, where mamma had taken her
away from birds and dinner-set, till she should be petted and comforted
into happiness once more.

And now papa left the other children, and, going over to mamma and
Daisy, sat down beside them, and gave his share of praise to his
little daughter, not only for the giving up of the white mice, but also
for that other matter concerning the tears, which she was so bravely
learning to control, with the idea of "helping mamma."

So at last a calm, though mournful resignation returned to the bosom of
the little one, and she was farther consoled by mamma insisting upon
putting her to bed herself, a treat which Daisy had not enjoyed since
Nellie had taken up the character of mamma's housekeeper; for, when
Ruth could not leave baby, Nellie now always considered this a part of
her duty.

Still Daisy could not refrain from saying, as her mother led her from
the room, -

"Mamma, I fink I never heard of a little girl who had so many _sorrys_
as me; did you?"

When Mrs. Ransom came downstairs, however, she reported Daisy as
restored to a more cheerful frame of spirits, and as singing herself
to sleep with her own version of the popular melody of "One little, two
little, three little nigger boys," - namely, "One little, two little,
fee little _colored person_ boys;" so careful was she in all things
to heed mamma's wishes, and not at all disturbed by the fact that the
words of her rhyme did not exactly fit the tune. It was all the same to
Daisy. Rules of music and measure were nothing to her, so long as her
conscience was at rest.

The family had all gone out upon the piazza. The father and mother sat
a little apart, talking; the boys were amusing themselves with old
Rover upon the lower step; while Nellie and Carrie were seated above at
the head of the flight.

"What makes you so quiet, Carrie?" asked Nellie.

"I don't know," answered Carrie, though she said "don't know" more from
that way we all have of saying it at times when we are not prepared
with an answer, than from an intention to speak an untruth. Then,
after another silence of a moment or two, she spoke again, -

"Nellie, why won't you make one of those brackets for mamma?"

"For the reason I told you. Because I don't think I shall have time. I
think I'd better take my money to buy her some other Christmas present
all ready made. Mamma will like it just as well if she sees I try to
help and please her in the mean time," said sensible Nellie.

"But you could give her something a great deal prettier if you made it
yourself," said Carrie.

"I know it," answered Nellie, quietly; "but I cannot do it, and have
any play-time, and mamma says she does not wish me to be busy all the

"Pshaw!" said Carrie, whose mind was quite set upon the pair of
brackets to be worked by herself and her sister, "your housekeeping
don't take you so long, and you never study so _very_ much now, so you
have a good deal of time, and I should think you might be willing to
use some of it to make a pretty thing for mamma. You think yourself so
great with the housekeeping."

"I have some other work I want to do," said Nellie. "I would do it if I
could, but I cannot, Carrie."

"That's real selfish," said Carrie. "You'd rather do something for
yourself than please mamma."

Nellie made no answer. If our quiet, gentle "little sunbeam" could not
disperse the clouds of Carrie's ill-temper, she would at least not make
them darker and heavier by an angry retort or provoking sneer. Carrie
was very unjust and unreasonable, it was true; but Nellie knew that
she would feel ashamed and sorry far sooner, if she were let alone,
than she would if she were answered back. And Nellie felt that it was
not so long since she herself had been "cross" and fretful at trifles.
She believed, too, that "something ailed Carrie," making her unusually
captious and irritable at this time. It was not over-study certainly:
Carrie was not likely to be at fault in that; but Nellie could not help
thinking either that she was not well, or that some trouble was on her
mind. What that was, of course, she had not the slightest suspicion.

"After all, Nellie don't think so very much about pleasing mamma," said
Carrie to herself, with rather a feeling of satisfaction in the thought.

It was not pleasant to feel that, while both her sisters were trying so
hard to be useful and good to mamma, that she alone had done that which
was likely to bring annoyance and trouble upon her.

There is an old adage that "misery loves company." I am not so sure
about that, for I do not see what comfort there can be in knowing that
others are unhappy; but I fear that sin often "loves company," and that
there is a certain satisfaction in being able to feel that some other
person is as naughty as ourselves. _Then_ we need not draw comparisons
to our own disadvantage.

Such was Carrie's state of mind just now; and there is no denying that
she was somewhat pleased to believe that Nellie was seeking her own
happiness rather than mamma's.

But still she did not feel that she could so easily give up the idea of
the pair of brackets. To make mamma such a grand present as that seemed
in some sort a kind of amends for her past undutifulness, and she could
not bear that she and Nellie should fall behind Maggie and Bessie in a
Christmas present to their mother.

So she went on to urge Nellie farther, but in a pleasanter tone.

"I think it would be perfectly splendid to give mamma such a lovely
present," she said, "and it would be so nice to tell all the girls in
school that we are going to do it. Don't you think it would?"

"I don't care about telling the girls," answered Nellie, "but I would
be very glad to make such a lovely thing for mamma."

"And you will do it then?"

"No," said Nellie, reluctantly, but decidedly: "I tell you I cannot,
Carrie. I have something else to do, and I know mamma would not wish me
to take any more work. Don't ask me any more."

"What are you going to do?" asked Carrie.

"I'll tell you another time," said Nellie, lowering her voice still
more. "I don't want mamma to hear. Please don't talk about it."

Carrie pouted again, and, to one or two proposals from Nellie that
they should amuse themselves with some game, returned short and sullen
refusals. Presently she rose, and, going to her father and mother, bade
them good-night.

"What! so early, dear?" said her mother in surprise, for it was
something very unusual for Carrie to wish to go to rest before her
ordinary bed-time.

"Yes'm," said Carrie: "I've nothing to do, and it's so stupid; and
Nellie's cross and won't talk to me."

O Carrie, Carrie!

"I am afraid it is Carrie who is a little cross and fretful," said Mrs.
Ransom, who had noticed that this had been Carrie's condition all day.
"Well, perhaps bed is the best place for you. Try to sleep it off, and
be pleasant and good-natured in the morning."

"Everybody seems to think Nellie and Daisy are quite perfect," murmured
Carrie to herself, as she sauntered slowly through the hall and up
the stairs. "No one ever says they do any thing wrong; but always say
I am cross, and every thing else that is horrid. I've a good mind - I
mean I'd just like to go 'way far off in a steamboat or the cars or
something, and stay for a great many years, and then how sorry they'd
be when they'd lost me, and didn't know where I was. They'd be glad
enough when I came back; and wouldn't they wish they'd never been cross
to me!"

Drawing such solace as she could from thoughts like these, after the
manner of too many little children when they have been cross and
discontented, and brought trouble upon themselves, she went on to the

"I want my clothes unfastened," she said imperiously to Ruth, who
held the ever-wakeful baby across her knees, having just succeeded in
hushing it to sleep.

Ruth would probably at another time have declined the service demanded
from her, until Carrie spoke in a more civil way; but now she preferred
submission to having the baby roused, which would be the probable
result of any contention between Carrie and herself. So she did as she
was _ordered_ without answering, and thereby secured the quiet she
desired. At least so she thought, as Carrie stood perfectly silent till
the task was nearly completed. But Ruth had reckoned without her host.

Carrie had fully expected that Ruth would reprove her for her
disagreeable way of speaking, perhaps even refuse to do what she
wanted; and she felt ashamed and rather subdued as she stood quietly
before the nurse while she unfastened sash, buttons, and strings. She
had resolved that she would give no more trouble to-night, would not
make any noise that could disturb baby, and was even trying to make up
her mind to tell Ruth she was sorry that she had been so troublesome
and rebellious all day, when she saw - what?

There, secure in the silence of the quiet nursery, was a little mouse
darting here and there, seeking, probably, for what he might find in
the shape of food.

Carrie gave a start, a start as violent as though she herself had been
afraid of the harmless little animals her mother held in such nervous
dread, causing Ruth to start also in involuntary sympathy, and thus
waking the baby upon her lap.

Ruth scolded Carrie, of course: she was more apt to blame her than
she was either of the other children, and to believe that she did a
vexatious thing "on purpose." Probably this was Carrie's own fault,
because she really gave more trouble than her sisters; but it was none
the pleasanter, and perhaps there was some truth in her oft repeated
complaint that she had "a hard time in the nursery."

Be that as it may, Ruth's harsh words were the last drop in Carrie's
brimming cup; and, wrenching herself out of the nurse's hands, she
declared she would finish undressing herself, and ran away to her own

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Online LibraryJoanna H. (Joanna Hooe) MathewsNellie's Housekeeping → online text (page 8 of 10)