The Seven Little Sisters Who Live on the Round Ball
Produced by Malcolm Farmer, Melissa Er-Raqabi and PG Distributed
THE SEVEN LITTLE SISTERS
WHO LIVE ON THE ROUND BALL THAT FLOATS IN THE AIR
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY LOUISA PARSONS HOPKINS FORMERLY SUPERVISOR IN
BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
MY THREE LITTLE FRIENDS
Marnie, Bell, and Geordie
I HAVE WRITTEN THESE STORIES
MEMORIAL OF MISS JANE ANDREWS
THE BALL ITSELF
THE LITTLE BROWN BABY
AGOONACK, THE ESQUIMAU SISTER
HOW AGOONACK LIVES THROUGH THE LONG SUMMER
GEMILA, THE CHILD OF THE DESERT
THE LITTLE MOUNTAIN MAIDEN
THE STORY OF PEN-SE
THE LITTLE DARK GIRL
LOUISE, THE CHILD OF THE BEAUTIFUL RIVER RHINE
LOUISE, THE CHILD OF THE WESTERN FOREST
THE SEVEN LITTLE SISTERS
MEMORIAL OF MISS JANE ANDREWS. [Born Dec. 1, 1833. Died July 15,
BY LOUISA PARSONS HOPKINS.
Perhaps the readers and lovers of this little book will be glad of a
few pages, by way of introduction, which shall show them somewhat of
Miss Andrews herself, and of her way of writing and teaching, as an
old friend and schoolmate may try to tell it; and, to begin with, a
glimpse of the happy day when she called a few of her friends together
to listen to the stories contained in this volume, before they were
offered to a publisher.
Picture to yourselves a group of young ladies in one of the loveliest
of old-fashioned parlors, looking out on a broad, elm-shaded street
in the old town of Newburyport. The room is long and large, with wide
mahogany seats in the four deep windows, ancient mahogany chairs, and
great bookcases across one side of the room, with dark pier-tables and
centre-table, and large mirror,--all of ancestral New England solidity
and rich simplicity; some saintly portraits on the wall, a modern
easel in the corner accounting for fine bits of coloring on canvas,
crayon drawings about the room, and a gorgeous firescreen of autumn
tints; nasturtium vines in bloom glorifying the south window, and
German ivy decorating the north corner; choice books here and there,
not to look at only, but to be assimilated; with an air of quiet
refinement and the very essence of cultured homeness pervading
all;--this is the meagre outline of a room, which, having once sat
within, you would wish never to see changed, in which many pure and
noble men and women have loved to commune with the lives which have
been so blent with all its suggestions that it almost seems a part of
their organic being.
But it was twenty-five years ago [This memorial was written in 1887.]
that this circle of congenial and expectant young people were drawn
together in the room to listen to the first reading of the MSS. of
"The Seven Little Sisters." I will not name them all; but one whose
youthful fame and genius were the pride of all, Harriet Prescott (now
Mrs. Spofford), was Jane's friend and neighbor for years, and heard
most of her books in MSS. They were all friends, and in a very
sympathetic and eager attitude of mind, you may well believe; for
in the midst, by the centre-table, sits Jane, who has called them
together; and knowing that she has really written a book, each one
feels almost that she herself has written it in some unconscious way,
because each feels identified with Jane's work, and is ready to be as
proud of it, and as sure of it, as all the world is now of the success
of Miss Jane Andrews's writings for the boys and girls in these little
stories of geography and history which bear her name.
I can see Jane sitting there, as I wish you could, with her MSS. on
the table at her side. She is very sweet and good and noble-looking,
with soft, heavy braids of light-brown hair carefully arranged on her
fine, shapely head; her forehead is full and broad; her eyes large,
dark blue, and pleasantly commanding, but with very gentle and dreamy
phases interrupting their placid decision of expression; her features
are classic and firm in outline, with pronounced resolution in the
close of the full lips, or of hearty merriment in the open laugh,
illuminated by a dazzle of well-set teeth; her complexion fresh
and pure, and the whole aspect of her face kind, courageous, and
inspiring, as well as thoughtful and impressive. The poise of her head
and rather strongly built figure is unusually good, and suggestive
of health, dignity, and leadership; yet her manners and voice are so
gentle, and her whole demeanor so benevolent, that no one could be
offended at her taking naturally the direction of any work, or the
planning of any scheme, which she would also be foremost in executing.
But there she sits looking up at her friends, with her papers in hand,
and the pretty businesslike air that so well became her, and bespeaks
the extreme criticism of her hearers upon what she shall read, because
she really wants to know how it affects them, and what mistakes or
faults can be detected; for she must do her work as well as possible,
and is sure they are willing to help. "You see," says Jane, "I have
dedicated the book to the children I told the stories to first,
when the plan was only partly in my mind, and they seemed to grow
by telling, till at last they finished themselves; and the children
seemed to care so much for them, that I thought if they were put into
a book other children might care for them too, and they might possibly
do some good in the world."
Yes, those were the points that always indicated the essential aim
and method of Jane's writing and teaching, the elements out of which
sprang all her work; viz., the relation of her mind to the actual
individual children she knew and loved, and the natural growth of her
thought through their sympathy, and the accretion of all she read and
discovered while the subject lay within her brooding brain, as well
as the single dominant purpose to do some good in the world. There was
definiteness as well as breadth in her way of working all through her
I wish I could remember exactly what was said by that critical circle;
for there were some quick and brilliant minds, and some pungent powers
of appreciation, and some keen-witted young women in that group.
Perhaps I might say they had all felt the moulding force of some very
original and potential educators as they had been growing up into
their young womanhood. Some of these were professional educators of
lasting pre-eminence; others were not professed teachers, yet in the
truest and broadest sense teachers of very wide and wise and inspiring
influence; and of these Thomas Wentworth Higginson had come more
intimately and effectually into formative relations with the minds and
characters of those gathered in that sunny room than any other person.
They certainly owed much of the loftiness and breadth of their aim
in life, and their comprehension of the growth and work to be
accomplished in the world, to his kind and steady instigation. I wish
I could remember what they said, and what Jane said; but all that has
passed away. I think somebody objected to the length of the title,
which Jane admitted to be a fault, but said something of wishing to
get the idea of the unity of the world into it as the main idea of the
book. I only recall the enthusiastic delight with which chapter
after chapter was greeted; we declared that it was a fairy tale of
geography, and a work of genius in its whole conception, and in its
absorbing interest of detail and individuality; and that any publisher
would demonstrate himself an idiot who did not want to publish it. I
remember Jane's quick tossing back of the head, and puzzled brow which
broke into a laugh, as she said: "Well, girls, it can't be as good as
you say; there must be some faults in it." But we all exclaimed that
we had done our prettiest at finding fault,--that there wasn't a
ghost of a fault in it. For the incarnate beauty and ideality and
truthfulness of her little stories had melted into our being, and left
us spellbound, till we were one with each other and her; one with the
Seven Little Sisters, too, and they seemed like our very own little
sisters. So they have rested in our imagination and affection as we
have seen them grow into the imagination and affection of generations
of children since, and as they will continue to grow until the
old limitations and barrenness of the study of geography shall be
transfigured, and the earth seem to the children an Eden which love
has girdled, when Gemila, Agoonack, and the others shall have won them
to a knowledge of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.
I would like to bring before young people who have read her books some
qualities of her mind and character which made her the rare woman,
teacher, and writer that she was. I knew her from early girlhood. We
went to the same schools, in more and more intimate companionship,
from the time we were twelve until we were twenty years of age; and
our lives and hearts were "grappled" to each other "with links of
steel" ever after. She was a precocious child, early matured, and
strong in intellectual and emotional experiences. She had a remarkably
clear mind, orderly and logical in its processes, and loved to take
up hard problems. She studied all her life with great joy and
earnestness, rarely, if ever, baffled in her persistent learning
except by ill-health. She went on at a great pace in mathematics for a
young girl; every step seemed easy to her. She took everything
severe that she could get a chance at, in the course or out of
it,--surveying, navigation, mechanics, mathematical astronomy, and
conic sections, as well as the ordinary course in mathematics; the
calculus she had worked through at sixteen under a very able and exact
teacher, and took her diploma from W.H. Wells, a master who allowed
nothing to go slipshod. She was absorbed in studies of this kind, and
took no especial interest in composition or literature beyond what was
required, and what was the natural outcome of a literary atmosphere
and inherited culture; that is, her mind was passively rather than
actively engaged in such directions, until later. At the normal school
she led a class which has had a proud intellectual record as teachers
and workers. She was the easy victor in every contest; with an
inclusive grasp, an incisive analysis, instant generalization, a very
tenacious and ready memory, and unusual talent for every effort of
study, she took and held the first place as a matter of course until
she graduated, when she gave the valedictory address. This valedictory
was a prophetic note in the line of her future expression; for it
gave a graphic illustration of the art of teaching geography, to the
consideration of which she had been led by Miss Crocker's logical,
suggestive, and masterly presentation of the subject in the school
course. Her ability and steadiness of working power, as well as
singleness of aim, attracted the attention of Horace Mann, who was
about forming the nucleus of Antioch College; and he succeeded in
gaining her as one of his promised New England recruits. She had
attended very little to Latin, and went to work at once to prepare for
the classical requirements of a college examination. This she did with
such phenomenal rapidity that in six weeks she had fitted herself
for what was probably equivalent to a Harvard entrance examination
in Latin. She went to Antioch, and taught, as well as studied for a
while, until her health gave way entirely; and she was prostrate for
years with brain and spine disorders. Of course this put an end to her
college career; and on her recovery she opened her little school in
her own house, which she held together until her final illness, and
to which she devoted her thoughts and energies, her endowments and
attainments, as well as her prodigal devotion and love.
The success of "The Seven Little Sisters" was a great pleasure to
her, partly because her dear mother and friends were so thoroughly
satisfied with it. Her mother always wished that Jane would give
her time more exclusively to writing, especially as new outlines of
literary work were constantly aroused in her active brain. She wrote
several stories which were careful studies in natural science, and
which appeared in some of the magazines. I am sure they would be well
worth collecting. She had her plan of "Each and All" long in her mind
before elaborating, and it crystallized by actual contact with the
needs and the intellectual instincts of her little classes. In fact
all her books grew, like a plant, from within outwards; they were born
in the nursery of the schoolroom, and nurtured by the suggestions of
the children's interest, thus blooming in the garden of a true and
natural education. The last book she wrote, "Ten Boys Who Lived on the
Road from Long Ago to Now," she had had in her mind for years. This
little book she dedicated to a son of her sister Margaret. I am sure
she gave me an outline of the plan fully ten years before she wrote
it out. The subject of her mental work lay in her mind, growing,
gathering to itself nourishment, and organizing itself consciously
or unconsciously by all the forces of her unresting brain and all
the channels of her study, until it sprung from her pen complete at
a stroke. She wrote good English, of course, and would never
sentimentalize, but went directly at the pith of the matter; and, if
she had few thoughts on a subject, she made but few words. I don't
think she did much by way of revising or recasting after her thought
was once committed to paper. I think she wrote it as she would
have said it, always with an imaginary child before her, to whose
intelligence and sympathy it was addressed. Her habit of mind was to
complete a thought before any attempt to convey it to others. This
made her a very helpful and clear teacher and leader. She seemed
always to have considered carefully anything she talked about, and
gave her opinion with a deliberation and clear conviction which
affected others as a verdict, and made her an oracle to a great
many kinds of people. All her plans were thoroughly shaped before
execution; all her work was true, finished, and conscientious in every
department. She did a great deal of quiet, systematic thinking from
her early school days onward, and was never satisfied until she
completed the act of thought by expression and manifestation in some
way for the advantage of others. The last time I saw her, which was
for less than five minutes accorded me by her nurse during her last
illness, she spoke of a new plan of literary work which she had in
mind, and although she attempted no delineation of it, said she was
thinking it out whenever she felt that it was safe for her to think.
Her active brain never ceased its plans for others, for working toward
the illumination of the mind, the purification of the soul, and the
elevation and broadening of all the ideals of life. I remember her
sitting, absorbed in reflection, at the setting of the sun every
evening while we were at the House Beautiful of the Peabodys [We spent
nearly all our time at West Newton in a little cottage on the hill,
where Miss Elizabeth Peabody, with her saintly mother and father, made
a paradise of love and refinement and ideal culture for us, and where
we often met the Hawthornes and Manns; and we shall never be able to
measure the wealth of intangible mental and spiritual influence which
we received therefrom.] at West Newton; or, when at home, gazing
every night, before retiring, from her own house-top, standing at
her watchtower to commune with the starry heavens, and receive that
exaltation of spirit which is communicated when we yield ourselves to
the "essentially religious." (I use this phrase, because it delighted
her so when I repeated it to her as the saying of a child in looking
at the stars.)
No one ever felt a twinge of jealousy in Jane's easy supremacy; she
never made a fuss about it, although I think she had no mock
modesty in the matter. She accepted the situation which her uniform
correctness of judgment assured to her, while she always accorded
generous praise and deference to those who excelled her in departments
where she made no pretence of superiority.
There were some occasions when her idea of duty differed from a
conventional one, perhaps from that of some of her near friends; but
no one ever doubted her strict dealing with herself, or her singleness
of motive. She did not feel the need of turning to any other
conscience than her own for support or enlightenment, and was
inflexible and unwavering in any course she deemed right. She never
apologized for herself in any way, or referred a matter of her own
experience or sole responsibility to another for decision; neither did
she seem to feel the need of expressed sympathy in any private loss
or trial. Her philosophy of life, her faith, or her temperament seemed
equal to every exigency of disappointment or suffering. She generally
kept her personal trials hidden within her own heart, and recovered
from every selfish pain by the elastic vigor of her power for
unselfish devotion to the good of others. She said that happiness was
to have an unselfish work to do, and the power to do it.
It has been said that Jane's only fault was that she was too good.
I think she carried her unselfishness too often to a short-sighted
excess, breaking down her health, and thus abridging her opportunities
for more permanent advantage to those whom she would have died to
serve; but it was solely on her own responsibility, and in consequence
of her accumulative energy of temperament, that made her unconscious
of the strain until too late.
Her brain was constitutionally sensitive and almost abnormally active;
and she more than once overtaxed it by too continuous study, or by a
disregard of its laws of health, or by a stupendous multiplicity of
cares, some of which it would have been wiser to leave to others. She
took everybody's burdens to carry herself. She was absorbed in the
affairs of those she loved,--of her home circle, of her sisters'
families, and of many a needy one whom she adopted into her
solicitude. She was thoroughly fond of children and of all that they
say and do, and would work her fingers off for them, or nurse them day
and night. Her sisters' children were as if they had been her own, and
she revelled in all their wonderful manifestations and development.
Her friends' children she always cared deeply for, and was hungry for
their wise and funny remarks, or any hint of their individuality. Many
of these things she remembered longer than the mothers themselves, and
took the most thorough satisfaction in recounting.
I have often visited her school, and it seemed like a home with a
mother in it. There we took sweet counsel together, as if we had come
to the house of God in company; for our methods were identical, and
a day in her school was a day in mine. We invariably agreed as to the
ends of the work, and how to reach them; for we understood each other
perfectly in that field of art.
I wish I could show her life with all its constituent factors of
ancestry, home, and surroundings; for they were so inherent in her
thoughts and feelings that you could hardly separate her from them in
your consideration. But that is impossible. Disinterested benevolence
was the native air of the house into which she was born, and she was
an embodiment of that idea. To devote herself to some poor outcast, to
reform a distorted soul, to give all she had to the most abject, to do
all she could for the despised and rejected,--this was her craving and
absorbing desire. I remember some comical instances of the pursuance
of this self-abnegation, where the returns were, to say the least,
disappointing; but she was never discouraged. It would be easy to name
many who received a lifelong stimulus and aid at her hands, either
intellectual or moral. She had much to do with the development of some
remarkable careers, as well as with the regeneration of many poor and
She was in the lives of her dear ones, and they in hers, to a very
unusual degree; and her life-threads are twined inextricably in theirs
forever. She was a complete woman,--brain, will, affections, all, to
the greatest extent, active and unselfish; her character was a harmony
of many strong and diverse elements; her conscience was a great rock
upon which her whole nature rested; her hands were deft and cunning;
her ingenious brain was like a master mechanic at expedients; and
in executive and administrative power, as well as in device and
comprehension, she was a marvel. If she had faults, they are
indistinguishable in the brightness and solidity of her whole
character. She was ready to move into her place in any sphere, and
adjust herself to any work God should give her to do. She must
be happy, and shedding happiness, wherever she is; for that is an
inseparable quality and function of her identity.
She passed calmly out of this life, and lay at rest in her own home,
in that dear room so full of memories of her presence, with flowers
to deck her bed, and many of her dearest friends around her; while the
verses which her beloved sister Caroline had selected seemed easily to
speak with Jane's own voice, as they read:--
Prepare the house, kind friends; drape it and deck it
With leaves and blossoms fair:
Throw open doors and windows, and call hither
The sunshine and soft air.
Let all the house, from floor to ceiling, look
Its noblest and its best;
For it may chance that soon may come to me
A most imperial guest.
A prouder visitor than ever yet
Has crossed my threshold o'er,
One wearing royal sceptre and a crown
Shall enter at my door;
Shall deign, perchance, sit at my board an hour,
And break with me my bread;
Suffer, perchance, this night my honored roof
Shelter his kingly head.
And if, ere comes the sun again, he bid me
Arise without delay,
And follow him a journey to his kingdom
Unknown and far away;
And in the gray light of the dawning morn
We pass from out my door,
My guest and I, silent, without farewell,
And to return no more,--
Weep not, kind friends, I pray; not with vain tears
Let your glad eyes grow dim;
Remember that my house was all prepared,
And that I welcomed him.
THE SEVEN LITTLE SISTERS.
THE BALL ITSELF.
Dear children, I have heard of a wonderful ball, which floats in the
sweet blue air, and has little soft white clouds about it, as it swims
There are many charming and astonishing things to be told of this
ball, and some of them you shall hear.
In the first place, you must know that it is a very big ball; far
bigger than the great soft ball, of bright colors, that little Charley
plays with on the floor,--yes, indeed; and bigger than cousin Frank's
largest football, that he brought home from college in the spring;
bigger, too, than that fine round globe in the schoolroom, that Emma
turns about so carefully, while she twists her bright face all into
wrinkles as she searches for Afghanistan or the Bosphorus Straits.
Long names, indeed; they sound quite grand from her little mouth, but
they mean nothing to you and me now.
Let me tell you about _my_ ball. It is so large that trees can grow on
it; so large that cattle can graze, and wild beasts roam, upon it; so
large that men and women can live on it, and little children too,--as
you already know, if you have read the title-page of this book. In
some places it is soft and green, like the long meadow between the
hills, where the grass was so high last summer that we almost lost
Marnie when she lay down to roll in it; in some parts it is covered
with tall and thick forests, where you might wander like the "babes
in the wood," nor ever find your way out; then, again, it is steep and
rough, covered with great hills, much higher than that high one behind
the schoolhouse,--so high that when you look up ever so far you can't
see the tops of them; but in some parts there are no hills at all, and
quiet little ponds of blue water, where the white water-lilies grow,
and silvery fishes play among their long stems. Bell knows, for she
has been among the lilies in a boat with papa.
Now, if we look on another side of the ball, we shall see no ponds,
but something very dreary. I am afraid you won't like it. A great
plain of sand,--sand like that on the seashore, only here there is no
sea,--and the sand stretches away farther than you can see, on every
side; there are no trees, and the sunshine beats down, almost burning
whatever is beneath it.
Perhaps you think this would be a grand place to build sand-houses.
One of the little sisters lives here; and, when you read of her, you
will know what she thinks about it. Always the one who has tried it
Look at one more side of my ball, as it turns around. Jack Frost must
have spent all his longest winter nights here, for see what a palace
of ice he has built for himself. Brave men have gone to those lonely
places, to come back and tell us about them; and, alas! some heroes
have not returned, but have lain down there to perish of cold and
hunger. Doesn't it look cold, the clear blue ice, almost as blue as
the air? And look at the snow, drifts upon drifts, and the air filled
with feathery flakes even now.
We won't look at this side longer, but we shall come back again to see
Agoonack in her little sledge. Don't turn over yet to find the story;
we shall come to it all in good time.
Now, what do you think of my ball, so white and cold, so soft and
green, so quiet and blue, so dreary and rough, as it floats along in
the sweet blue air, with the flocks of white clouds about it?
I will tell you one thing more. The wise men have said that this earth
on which we live is nothing more nor less than just such a ball. Of
this we shall know when we are older and wiser; but here is the little
brown baby waiting for us.
THE LITTLE BROWN BABY.
Far away in the warm country lives a little brown baby; she has a
brown face, little brown hands and fingers, brown body, arms, and
legs, and even her little toes are also brown.
And this baby wears no little frock nor apron, no little petticoat,
nor even stockings and shoes,--nothing at all but a string of beads
around her neck, as you wear your coral; for the sun shines very
warmly there, and she needs no clothes to keep her from the cold.
Her hair is straight and black, hanging softly down each side of her
small brown face; nothing at all like Bell's golden curls, or Marnie's
sunny brown ones.
Would you like to know how she lives among the flowers and the birds?
She rolls in the long soft grass, where the gold-colored snakes are at
play; she watches the young monkeys chattering and swinging among the
trees, hung by the tail; she chases the splendid green parrots that
fly among the trees; and she drinks the sweet milk of the cocoanut
from a round cup made of its shell.
When night comes, the mother takes her baby and tosses her up into the
little swinging bed in the tree, which her father made for her from
the twisting vine that climbs among the branches. And the wind blows
and rocks the little bed; and the mother sits at the foot of the tree
singing a mild sweet song, and this brown baby falls asleep. Then the
stars come out and peep through the leaves at her. The birds, too, are
all asleep in the tree; the mother-bird spreading her wings over the
young ones in the nest, and the father-bird sitting on a twig close
by with his head under his wing. Even the chattering monkey has curled
himself up for the night.
Soon the large round moon comes up. She, too, must look into the
swinging bed, and shine upon the closed eyes of the little brown baby.
She is very gentle, and sends her soft light among the branches and
thick green leaves, kissing tenderly the small brown feet, and the
crest on the head of the mother-bird, who opens one eye and looks
quickly about to see if any harm is coming to the young ones. The
bright little stars, too, twinkle down through the shadows to bless
the sleeping child. All this while the wind blows and rocks the little
bed, singing also a low song through the trees; for the brown mother
has fallen asleep herself, and left the night-wind to take care of her
So the night moves on, until, all at once, the rosy dawn breaks over
the earth; the birds lift up their heads, and sing and sing; the great
round sun springs up, and, shining into the tree, lifts the shut lids
of the brown baby's eyes. She rolls over and falls into her mother's
arms, who dips her into the pretty running brook for a bath, and rolls
her in the grass to dry, and then she may play among the birds and
flowers all day long; for they are like merry brothers and sisters
to the happy child, and she plays with them on the bosom of the round
earth, which seems to love them all like a mother.
This is the little brown baby. Do you love her? Do you think you would
know her if you should meet her some day?
A funny little brown sister. Are all of them brown?
We will see, for here comes Agoonack and her sledge.
AGOONACK, THE ESQUIMAU SISTER.
What is this odd-looking mound of stone? It looks like the great brick
oven that used to be in our old kitchen, where, when I was a little
girl, I saw the fine large loaves of bread and the pies and puddings
pushed carefully in with a long, flat shovel, or drawn out with the
same when the heat had browned them nicely.
Is this an oven standing out here alone in the snow?
You will laugh when I tell you that it is not an oven, but a house;
and here lives little Agoonack.
Do you see that low opening, close to the ground? That is the door;
but one must creep on hands and knees to enter. There is another
smaller hole above the door: it is the window. It has no glass, as
ours do; only a thin covering of something which Agoonack's father
took from the inside of a seal, and her mother stretched over the
window-hole, to keep out the cold and to let in a little light.
Here lives our little girl; not as the brown baby does, among the
trees and the flowers, but far up in the cold countries amid snow and
If we look off now, over the ice, we shall see a funny little clumsy
thing, running along as fast as its short, stout legs will permit,
trying to keep up with its mother. You will hardly know it to be a
little girl, but might rather call it a white bear's cub, it is so
oddly dressed in the white, shaggy coat of the bear which its father
killed last month. But this is really Agoonack; you can see her round,
fat, greasy little face, if you throw back the white jumper-hood which
covers her head. Shall I tell you what clothes she wears?
Not at all like yours, you will say; but, when one lives in cold
countries, one must dress accordingly.
First, she has socks, soft and warm, but not knit of the white yarn
with which mamma knits yours. Her mamma has sewed them from the skins
of birds, with the soft down upon them to keep the small brown feet
very warm. Over these come her moccasins of sealskin.
If you have been on the seashore, perhaps you know the seals that
are sometimes seen swimming in the sea, holding up their brown heads,
which look much like dogs' heads, wet and dripping.
The seals love best to live in the seas of the cold countries: here
they are, huddled together on the sloping rocky shores, or swimming
about under the ice, thousands and thousands of silver-gray coated
creatures, gentle seal-mothers and brave fathers with all their pretty
seal-babies. And here the Esquimaux (for that is the name by which
we call these people of the cold countries) hunt them, eat them for
dinner, and make warm clothes of their skins. So, as I told you,
Agoonack has sealskin boots.
Next she wears leggings, or trousers, of white bear-skin, very rough
and shaggy, and a little jacket or frock, called a jumper, of the
same. This jumper has a hood, made like the little red riding-hoods
which I dare say you have all seen. Pull the hood up over the short,
black hair, letting it almost hide the fat, round face, and you have
Is this her best dress, do you think?
Certainly it is her best, because she has no other, and when she goes
into the house--but I think I won't tell you that yet, for there is
something more to be seen outside.
Agoonack and her mother are coming home to dinner, but there is no sun
shining on the snow to make it sparkle. It is dark like night, and
the stars shine clear and steady like silver lamps in the sky, but far
off, between the great icy peaks, strange lights are dancing, shooting
long rosy flames far into the sky, or marching in troops as if each
light had a life of its own, and all were marching together along the
dark, quiet sky. Now they move slowly and solemnly, with no noise,
and in regular, steady file; then they rush all together, flame into
golden and rosy streamers, and mount far above the cold, icy mountain
peaks that glitter in their light; we hear a sharp sound like Dsah!
Dsah! and the ice glows with the warm color, and the splendor shines
on the little white-hooded girl as she trots beside her mother.
It is far more beautiful than the fireworks on Fourth of July.
Sometimes we see a little of it here, and we say there are northern
lights, and we sit at the window watching all the evening to see them
march and turn and flash; but in the cold countries they are far more
brilliant than any we have seen.
It is Agoonack's birthday, and there is a present for her before the
door of the house. I will make you a picture of it. "It is a sled,"
you exclaim. Yes, a sled; but quite unlike yours. In the faraway cold
countries no trees grow; so her father had no wood, and he took the
bones of the walrus and the whale, bound them together with strips of
sealskin, and he has built this pretty sled for his little daughter's
It has a back to lean against and hold by, for the child will go over
some very rough places, and might easily fall from it. And then, you
see, if she fell, it would be no easy matter to jump up again and
climb back to her seat, for the little sled would have run away from
her before she should have time to pick herself up. How could it run?
Yes, that is the wonderful thing about it. When her father made the
sled he said to himself, "By the time this is finished, the two little
brown dogs will be old enough to draw it, and Agoonack shall have
them; for she is a princess, the daughter of a great chief."
Now you can see that, with two such brisk little dogs as the brown
puppies harnessed to the sled, Agoonack must keep her seat firmly,
that she may not roll over into the snow and let the dogs run away
You can imagine what gay frolics she has with her brother who runs at
her side, or how she laughs and shouts to see him drive his bone ball
with his bone bat or hockey, skimming it over the crusty snow.
Now we will creep into the low house with the child and her mother,
and see how they live.
Outside it is very cold, colder than you have ever known it to be in
the coldest winter's day; but inside it is warm, even very hot.
And the first thing Agoonack and her mother do is to take off their
clothes, for here it is as warm as the place where the brown baby
lives, who needs no clothes.
It isn't the sunshine that makes it warm, for you remember I told you
it was as dark as night. There is no furnace in the cellar; indeed,
there is no cellar, neither is there a stove. But all this heat comes
from a sort of lamp, with long wicks of moss and plenty of walrus fat
to burn. It warms the small house, which has but one room, and over it
the mother hangs a shallow dish in which she cooks soup; but most of
the meat is eaten raw, cut into long strips, and eaten much as one
might eat a stick of candy.
They have no bread, no crackers, no apples nor potatoes; nothing but
meat, and sometimes the milk of the reindeer, for there are no cows in
the far, cold northern countries. But the reindeer gives them a great
deal: he is their horse as well as their cow; his skin and his flesh,
his bones and horns, are useful when he is dead, and while he lives he
is their kind, gentle, and patient friend.
There is some one else in the hut when Agoonack comes home,--a little
dark ball, rolled up on one corner of the stone platform which is
built all around three sides of the house, serving for seats, beds,
and table. This rolled-up ball unrolls itself, tumbles off the seat,
and runs to meet them. It is Sipsu, the baby brother of Agoonack,--a
round little boy, who rides sometimes, when the weather is not too
cold, in the hood of his mother's jumper, hanging at her back, and
peering out from his warm nestling-place over the long icy plain to
watch for his father's return from the bear-hunt.
When the men come home dragging the great Nannook, as they call the
bear, there is a merry feast. They crowd together in the hut, bringing
in a great block of snow, which they put over the lamp-fire to melt
into water; and then they cut long strips of bear's meat, and laugh
and eat and sing, as they tell the long story of the hunt of Nannook,
and the seals they have seen, and the foot-tracks of the reindeer they
have met in the long valley.
Perhaps the day will come when pale, tired travellers will come to
their sheltering home, and tell them wonderful stories, and share
their warmth for a while, till they can gain strength to go on their
Perhaps while they are so merry there all together, a very great
snowstorm will come and cover the little house, so that they cannot
get out for several days. When the storm ends, they dig out the low
doorway, and creep again into the starlight, and Agoonack slips into
her warm clothes and runs out for Jack Frost to kiss her cheeks, and
leave roses wherever his lips touch. If it is very cold indeed, she
must stay in, or Jack Frost will give her no roses, but a cold, frosty
This is the way Agoonack lives through the long darkness. But I have
to tell you more of her in another chapter, and you will find it is
not always dark in the cold northern countries.
HOW AGOONACK LIVES THROUGH THE LONG SUMMER.
It is almost noon one day when Agoonack's mother wraps the little girl
in her shaggy clothes and climbs with her a high hill, promising a
pleasant sight when they shall have reached the top.
It is the sun, the beautiful, bright, round sun, which shines and
smiles at them for a minute, and then slips away again below the far,
They haven't seen him for many months, and now they rejoice, for the
next day he comes again and stays longer, and the next, and the next,
and every day longer and longer, until at last he moves above them in
one great, bright circle, and does not even go away at all at night.
His warm rays melt the snow and awaken the few little hardy flowers
that can grow in this short summer. The icy coat breaks away from the
clear running water, and great flocks of birds with soft white plumage
come, like a snowstorm of great feathery flakes, and settle among the
black rocks along the seashore. Here they lay their eggs in the many
safe little corners and shelves of the rock; and here they circle
about in the sunshine, while the Esquimau boys make ready their
long-handled nets and creep and climb out upon the ledges of rock,
and, holding up the net as the birds fly by, catch a netful to carry
home for supper.
The sun shines all day long, and all night long, too; and yet he
can't melt all the highest snowdrifts, where the boys are playing
bat-and-ball,--long bones for sticks, and an odd little round one for
It is a merry life they all live while the sunshine stays, for they
know the long, dark winter is coming, when they can no longer climb
among the birds, nor play ball among the drifts.
The seals swim by in the clear water, and the walrus and her young one
are at play; and, best of all, the good reindeer has come, for the sun
has uncovered the crisp moss upon which he feeds, and he is roaming
through the valleys where it grows among the rocks.
The old men sit on the rocks in the sunshine, and laugh and sing, and
tell long stories of the whale and the seal, and the great white
whale that, many years ago, when Agoonack's father was a child, came
swimming down from the far north, where they look for the northern
lights, swimming and diving through the broken ice; and they watched
her in wonder, and no one would throw a harpoon at this white lady of
the Greenland seas, for her visit was a good omen, promising a mild
Little Agoonack comes from her play to crouch among the rocky ledges
and listen to the stories. She has no books; and, if she had, she
couldn't read them. Neither could her father or mother read to her:
their stories are told and sung, but never written. But she is
a cheerful and contented little girl, and tries to help her dear
friends; and sometimes she wonders a great while by herself about what
the pale stranger told them.
And now, day by day, the sun is slipping away from them; gone for a
few minutes to-day, to-morrow it will stay away a few more, until
at last there are many hours of rosy twilight, and few, very few, of
But the children are happy: they do not dread the winter, but they
hope the tired travellers have reached their homes; and Agoonack
wants, oh, so much! to see them and help them once more. The father
will hunt again, and the mother will tend the lamp and keep the house
warm; and, although they will have no sun, the moon and stars are
bright, and they will see again the streamers of the great northern
Would you like to live in the cold countries, with their long darkness
and long sunshine?
It is very cold, to be sure, but there are happy children there, and
kind fathers and mothers, and the merriest sliding on the very best of
ice and snow.
GEMILA, THE CHILD OF THE DESERT.
It is almost sunset; and Abdel Hassan has come out to the door of
his tent to enjoy the breeze, which is growing cooler after the day's
terrible heat. The round, red sun hangs low over the sand; it will be
gone in five minutes more. The tent-door is turned away from the sun,
and Abdel Hassan sees only the rosy glow of its light on the hills in
the distance which looked so purple all day. He sits very still, and
his earnest eyes are fixed on those distant hills. He does not move or
speak when the tent-door is again pushed aside, and his two children,
Alee and Gemila, come out with their little mats and seat themselves
also on the sand. You can see little Gemila in the picture. How glad
they are of the long, cool shadows, and the tall, feathery palms! how
pleasant to hear the camels drink, and to drink themselves at the deep
well, when they have carried some fresh water in a cup to their silent
father! He only sends up blue circles of smoke from his long pipe as
he sits there, cross-legged, on a mat of rich carpet. He never sat in
a chair, and, indeed, never saw one in his life. His chairs are mats;
and his house is, as you have heard, a tent.
Do you know what a tent is?
I always liked tents, and thought I should enjoy living in one; and
when I was a little girl, on many a stormy day when we couldn't go to
school, I played with my sisters at living in tents. We would take a
small clothes-horse and tip it down upon its sides, half open; then,
covering it with shawls, we crept in, and were happy enough for the
rest of the afternoon. I tell you this, that you may also play tents
some day, if you haven't already.
The tent of Gemila's father is, however, quite different from ours.
Two or three long poles hold it up, and over them hangs a cloth made
of goats'-hair, or sometimes sheepskins, which are thick enough to
keep out either heat or cold. The ends of the cloth are fastened down
by pegs driven into the sand, or the strong wind coming might blow
the tent away. The tent-cloth pushes back like a curtain for the door.
Inside, a white cloth stretched across divides this strange house into
two rooms; one is for the men, the other for the women and children.
In the tent there is no furniture like ours; nothing but mats, and low
cushions called divans; not even a table from which to eat, nor a
bed to sleep upon. But the mats and the shawls are very gorgeous and
costly, and we are very proud when we can buy any like them for our
parlors. And, by the way, I must tell you that these people have been
asleep all through the heat of the day,--the time when you would have
been coming home from school, eating your dinner, and going back to
school again. They closed the tent-door to keep out the terrible blaze
of the sun, stretched themselves on the mats, and slept until just
now, when the night-wind began to come.
Now they can sit outside the tent and enjoy the evening, and the
mother brings out dates and little hard cakes of bread, with plenty of
butter made from goats' milk. The tall, dark servant-woman, with loose
blue cotton dress and bare feet, milks a camel, and they all take
their supper, or dinner perhaps I had better call it. They have no
plates, nor do they sit together to eat. The father eats by himself:
when he has finished, the mother and children take the dates and bread
which he leaves. We could teach them better manners, we think; but
they could teach us to be hospitable and courteous, and more polite to
strangers than we are.
When all is finished, you see there are no dishes to be washed and put
The stars have come out, and from the great arch of the sky they look
down on the broad sands, the lonely rocks, the palm-trees, and the
tents. Oh, they are so bright, so steady, and so silent, in that
great, lonely place, where no noise is heard! no sounds of people or
of birds or animals, excepting the sleepy groaning of a camel, or the
low song that little Alee is singing to his sister as they lie upon
their backs on the sand, and watch the slow, grand movement of the
stars that are always journeying towards the west.
Night is very beautiful in the desert; for this is the desert, where
Abdel Hassan the Arab lives. His country is that part of our round
ball where the yellow sands stretch farther than eye can see, and
there are no wide rivers, no thick forests, and no snow-covered hills.
The day is too bright and too hot, but the night he loves; it is his
He falls asleep at last out under the stars, and, since he has been
sleeping so long in the daytime, can well afford to be awake very
early in the morning: so, while the stars still shine, and there is
only one little yellow line of light in the east, he calls his
wife, children, and servants, and in a few minutes all is bustle and
preparation; for to-day they must take down the tent, and move, with
all the camels and goats, many miles away. For the summer heat has
nearly dried up the water of their little spring under the palm-trees,
and the grass that grew there is also entirely gone; and one cannot
live without water to drink, particularly in the desert, nor can the
goats and camels live without grass.
Now, it would be a very bad thing for us, if some day all the water
in our wells and springs and ponds should dry up, and all the grass on
our pleasant pastures and hills should wither away.
What should we do? Should we have to pack all our clothes, our books,
our furniture and food, and move away to some other place where there
were both water and grass, and then build new houses? Oh, how much
trouble it would give us! No doubt the children would think it great
fun; but as they grew older they would have no pleasant home to
remember, with all that makes "sweet home" so dear.
And now you will see how much better it is for Gemila's father than if
he lived in a house. In a very few minutes the tent is taken down, the
tent-poles are tied together, the covering is rolled up with the pegs
and strings which fastened it, and it is all ready to put up again
whenever they choose to stop. As there is no furniture to carry, the
mats and cushions only are to be rolled together and tied; and now
Achmet, the old servant, brings a tall yellow camel.
Did you ever see a camel? I hope you have some time seen a living one
in a menagerie; but, if you haven't, perhaps you have seen a picture
of the awkward-looking animal with a great hump upon his back, a long
neck, and head thrust forward. A boy told me the other day, that, when
the camel had been long without food, he ate his hump: he meant that
the flesh and fat of the hump helped to nourish him when he had no
Achmet speaks to the camel, and he immediately kneels upon the sand,
while the man loads him with the tent-poles and covering; after which
he gets up, moves on a little way, to make room for another to come
up, kneel, and be loaded with mats, cushions, and bags of dates.
Then comes a third; and while he kneels, another servant comes from
the spring, bringing a great bag made of camels'-skin, and filled with
water. Two of these bags are hung upon the camel, one on each side.
This is the water for all these people to drink for four days, while
they travel through a sandy, rocky country, where there are no springs
or wells. I am afraid the water will not taste very fresh after it has
been kept so long in leather bags; but they have nothing else to carry
it in, and, besides, they are used to it, and don't mind the taste.
Here are smaller bags, made of goats'-skin, and filled with milk; and
when all these things are arranged, which is soon done, they are ready
to start, although it is still long before sunrise. The camels have
been drinking at the spring, and have left only a little muddy water,
like that in our street-gutters; but the goats must have this, or none
And now Abdel Hassan springs upon his beautiful black horse, that has
such slender legs and swift feet, and places himself at the head of
this long troop of men and women, camels and goats. The women are
riding upon the camels, and so are the children; while the servants
and camel-drivers walk barefooted over the yellow sand.
It would seem very strange to you to be perched up so high on a
camel's back, but Gemila is quite accustomed to it. When she was very
little, her mother often hung a basket beside her on the camel, and
carried her baby in it; but now she is a great girl, full six years
old, and when the camel kneels, and her mother takes her place, the
child can spring on in front, with one hand upon the camel's rough
hump, and ride safely and pleasantly hour after hour. Good, patient
camels! God has fitted them exactly to be of the utmost help to the
people in that desert country. Gemila for this often blesses and
thanks Him whom she calls Allah.
All this morning they ride,--first in the bright starlight; but soon
the stars become faint and dim in the stronger rosy light that is
spreading over the whole sky, and suddenly the little girl sees
stretching far before her the long shadow of the camels, and she knows
that the sun is up, for we never see shadows when the sun is not up,
unless it is by candlelight or moonlight. The shadows stretch out very
far before them, for the sun is behind. When you are out walking very
early in the morning, with the sun behind you, see how the shadow of
even such a little girl as you will reach across the whole street; and
you can imagine that such great creatures as camels would make even
much longer shadows.
Gemila watches them, and sees, too, how the white patches of sand
flush in the morning light; and she looks back where far behind are
the tops of their palm-trees, like great tufted fans, standing dark
against the yellow sky.
She is not sorry to leave that old home. She has had many homes
already, young as she is, and will have many more as long as she
lives. The whole desert is her home; it is very wide and large, and
sometimes she lives in one part, sometimes in another.
As the sun gets higher, it begins to grow very hot. The father
arranges the folds of his great white turban, a shawl with many folds,
twisted round his head to keep off the oppressive heat. The servants
put on their white fringed handkerchiefs, falling over the head and
down upon the neck, and held in place by a little cord tied, round the
head. It is not like a bonnet or hat, but one of the very best things
to protect the desert travellers from the sun. The children, too,
cover their heads in the same way, and Gemila no longer looks out to
see what is passing: the sun is too bright; it would hurt her eyes and
make her head ache. She shuts her eyes and falls half asleep, sitting
there high upon the camel's back. But, if she could look out, there
would be nothing to see but what she has seen many and many times
before,--great plains of sand or pebbles, and sometimes high, bare
rocks,--not a tree to be seen, and far off against the sky, the low
purple hills. They move on in the heat, and are all silent. It is
almost noon now, and Abdel Hassan stops, leaps from his horse, and
strikes his spear into the ground. The camel-drivers stop, the
camels stop and kneel, Gemila and Alee and their mother dismount. The
servants build up again the tent which they took down in the morning;
and, after drinking water from the leathern bags, the family are soon
under its shelter, asleep on their mats, while the camels and servants
have crept into the shadow of some rocks and lain down in the sand.
The beautiful black horse is in the tent with his master; he is
treated like a child, petted and fed by all the family, caressed and
kissed by the children. Here they rest until the heat of the day is
past; but before sunset they have eaten their dates and bread, loaded
again the camels, and are moving, with the beautiful black horse and
his rider at the head.
They ride until the stars are out, and after, but stop for a few
hours' rest in the night, to begin the next day as they began this.
Gemila still rides upon the camel, and I can easily understand that
she prays to Allah with a full heart under the shining stars so clear
and far, and that at the call to prayer in the early dawn her pretty
little veiled head is bent in true love and worship. But I must tell
you what she sees soon after sunrise on this second morning. Across
the sand, a long way before them, something with very long legs is
running, almost flying. She knows well what it is, for she has often
seen them before, and she calls to one of the servants, "See, there is
the ostrich!" and she claps her hands with delight.
The ostrich is a great bird, with very long legs and small wings; and
as legs are to run with, and wings to fly with, of course he can run
better than he can fly. But he spreads his short wings while running,
and they are like little sails, and help him along quite wonderfully,
so that he runs much faster than any horse can.
Although he runs so swiftly, he is sometimes caught in a very odd way.
I will tell you how.
He is a large bird, but he is a very silly one, and, when he is tired
of running, he will hide his head in the sand, thinking that because
he can see no one he can't be seen himself. Then the swift-footed Arab
horses can overtake him, and the men can get his beautiful feathers,
which you must have often seen, for ladies wear them in their bonnets.
All this about the ostrich. Don't forget it, my little girl: some time
you may see one, and will be glad that you know what kind of a fellow
The ostrich which Gemila sees is too far away to be caught; besides,
it will not be best to turn aside from the track which is leading
them to a new spring. But one of the men trots forward on his camel,
looking to this side and to that as he rides; and at last our little
girl, who is watching, sees his camel kneel, and sees him jump off
and stoop in the sand. When they reach the place, they find a sort of
great nest, hollowed a little in the sand, and in it are great eggs,
almost as big as your head. The mother ostrich has left them there.
She is not like other mother-birds, that sit upon the eggs to keep
them warm; but she leaves them in the hot sand, and the sun keeps them
warm, and by and by the little ostriches will begin to chip the shell,
and creep out into the great world.
The ostrich eggs are good to eat. You eat your one egg for breakfast,
but one of these big eggs will make breakfast for the whole family.
And that is why Gemila clapped her hands when she saw the ostrich: she
thought the men would find the nest, and have fresh eggs for a day or
This day passes like the last: they meet no one, not a single man or
woman, and they move steadily on towards the sunset. In the morning
again they are up and away under the starlight; and this day is a
happy one for the children, and, indeed, for all.
The morning star is yet shining, low, large, and bright, when our
watchful little girl's dark eyes can see a row of black dots on the
sand,--so small you might think them nothing but flies; but Gemila
knows better. They only look small because they are far away; they are
really men and camels, and horses too, as she will soon see when
they come nearer. A whole troop of them; as many as a hundred camels,
loaded with great packages of cloths and shawls for turbans, carpets
and rich spices, and the beautiful red and green morocco, of which,
when I was a little girl, we sometimes had shoes made, but we see it
oftener now on the covers of books.
All these things belong to the Sheik Hassein. He has been to the great
cities to buy them, and now he is carrying them across the desert
to sell again. He himself rides at the head of his company on a
magnificent brown horse, and his dress is so grand and gay that it
shines in the morning light quite splendidly. A great shawl with
golden fringes is twisted about his head for a turban, and he wears,
instead of a coat, a tunic broadly striped with crimson and yellow,
while a loose-flowing scarlet robe falls from his shoulders. His face
is dark, and his eyes keen and bright; only a little of his straight
black hair hangs below the fringes of his turban, but his beard is
long and dark, and he really looks very magnificent sitting upon his
fine horse, in the full morning sunlight.
Abdel Hassan rides forward to meet him, and the children from behind
watch with great delight.
Abdel Hassan takes the hand of the sheik, presses it to his lips and
forehead, and says, "Peace be with you."
Do you see how different this is from the hand-shakings and
"How-do-you-do's" of the gentlemen whom we know? Many grand
compliments are offered from one to another, and they are very polite
and respectful. Our manners would seem very poor beside theirs.
Then follows a long talk, and the smoking of pipes, while the servants
make coffee, and serve it in little cups.
Hassein tells Abdel Hassan of the wells of fresh water which he left
but one day's journey behind him, and he tells of the rich cities he
has visited. Abdel Hassan gives him dates and salt in exchange for
cloth for a turban, and a brown cotton dress for his little daughter.
It is not often that one meets men in the desert, and this day will
long be remembered by the children.
The next night, before sunset, they can see the green feathery tops of
the palm-trees before them. The palms have no branches, but only great
clusters of fern-like leaves at the top of the tree, under which grow
the sweet dates.
Near those palm-trees will be Gemila's home for a little while, for
here they will find grass and a spring. The camels smell the water,
and begin to trot fast; the goats leap along over the sand, and the
barefooted men hasten to keep up with them.
In an hour more the tent is pitched under the palm-trees, and all have
refreshed themselves with the cool, clear water.
And now I must tell you that the camels have had nothing to drink
since they left the old home. The camel has a deep bag below his
throat, which he fills with water enough to last four or five days;
so he can travel in the desert as long as that, and sometimes longer,
without drinking again. Yet I believe the camels are as glad as the
children to come to the fresh spring.
Gemila thinks so at night, as she stands under the starlight, patting
her good camel Simel, and kissing his great lips.
The black goats, with long silky ears, are already cropping the grass.
The father sits again at the tent-door, and smokes his long pipe; the
children bury their bare feet in the sand, and heap it into little
mounds about them; while the mother is bringing out the dates and the
bread and butter.
It is an easy thing for them to move: they are already at home again.
But although they have so few cares, we do not wish ourselves in their
place, for we love the home of our childhood, "be it ever so humble,"
better than roaming like an exile.
But all the time I haven't told you how Gemila looks, nor what clothes
she wears. Her face is dark; she has a little straight nose, full
lips, and dark, earnest eyes; her dark hair will be braided when it
is long enough. On her arms and her ankles are gilded bracelets and
anklets, and she wears a brown cotton dress loosely hanging halfway to
the bare, slender ankles. On her head the white fringed handkerchief,
of which I told you, hangs like a little veil. Her face is pleasant,
and when she smiles her white teeth shine between her parted lips.
She is the child of the desert, and she loves her desert home.
I think she would hardly be happy to live in a house, eat from a
table, and sleep in a little bed like yours. She would grow restless
and weary if she should live so long and so quietly in one place.
THE LITTLE MOUNTAIN MAIDEN.
I want you to look at the picture on this page. It is a little deer:
its name is the chamois. Do you see what delicate horns it has, and
what slender legs, and how it seems to stand on that bit of rock and
lift its head to watch for the hunters.
Last summer I saw a little chamois like that, and just as small: it
was not alive, but cut or carved of wood,--such a graceful pretty
little plaything as one does not meet every day.
Would you like to know who made it, and where it came from?
It was made in the mountain country, by the brother of my good
Jeannette, the little Swiss maiden.
Here among the high mountains she lives with her father, mother, and
brothers; and far up among those high snowy peaks, which are seen
behind the house, the chamois live, many of them together, eating
the tender grass and little pink-colored flowers, and leaping and
springing away over the ice and snow when they see the men coming up
to hunt them.
I will tell you by and by how it happened that Jeannette's tall
brother Joseph carved this tiny chamois from wood. But first you must
know about this small house upon the great hills, and how they live up
there so near the blue sky.
One would think it might be easier for a child to be good and pure so
far up among the quiet hills, and that there God would seem to come
close to the spirit, even of a little girl or boy.
On the sides of the mountains tall trees are growing,--pine and fir
trees, which are green in winter as well as in summer. If you go into
the woods in winter, you will find that almost all the trees have
dropped their pretty green leaves upon the ground, and are standing
cold and naked in the winter wind; but the pines and the firs keep on
their warm green clothes all the year round.
It was many years ago, before Jeannette was born, that her father
came to the mountains with his sharp axe and cut down some of the
fir-trees. Other men helped him, and they cut the great trees into
strong logs and boards, and built of them the house of which I have
told you. Now he will have a good home of his own for as long as he
likes to live there, and to it will come his wife and children as God
shall send them, to nestle among the hills.
Then he went down to the little town at the foot of the mountain, and
when he came back, he was leading a brown, long-eared donkey, and upon
that donkey sat a rosy-cheeked young woman, with smiling brown eyes,
and long braids of brown hair hanging below a little green hat set on
one side of her head, while beautiful rose-colored carnations peeped
from beneath it on the other side. Who was this? It wasn't Jeannette:
you know I told you this was before she was born. Can you guess, or
must I tell you that it was the little girl's mother? She had come up
the mountain for the first time to her new home,--the house built of
the fir and the pine,--where after awhile were born Jeannette's two
tall brothers, and at last Jeannette herself.
It was a good place to be born in. When she was a baby she used to lie
on the short, sweet grass before the doorstep, and watch the cows
and the goats feeding, and clap her little hands to see how rosy the
sunset made the snow that shone on the tops of those high peaks. And
the next summer, when she could run alone, she picked the blue-eyed
gentians, thrusting her small fingers between their fringed eyelids,
and begging them to open and look at little Jean; and she stained her
wee hands among the strawberries, and pricked them with the thorns
of the long raspberry-vines, when she went with her mother in the
afternoon to pick the sweet fruit for supper. Ah, she was a happy
little thing! Many a fall she got over the stones or among the brown
moss, and many a time the clean frock that she wore was dyed red with
the crushed berries; but, oh, how pleasant it was to find them in
great patches on the mountain-side, where the kind sun had warmed them
into such delicious life! I have seen the children run out of school
to pick such sweet wild strawberries, all the recess-time, up in the
fields of Maine; and how happy they were with their little stained
fingers as they came back at the call of the bell!
In the black bog-mud grew the Alpen roses, and her mother said, "Do
not go there, my little daughter, it is too muddy for you." But at
night, when her brother came home from the chamois hunt, he took off
his tall, pointed hat, and showed his little sister the long spray of
roses twisted round it, which he had brought for her. He could go in
the mud with his thick boots, you know, and never mind it.
Here they live alone upon the mountain; there are no near neighbors.
At evening they can see the blue smoke curling from the chimney of one
house that stands behind that sunny green slope, a hundred yards from
their door, and they can always look down upon the many houses of the
town below, where the mother lived when she was young.
Many times has Jeannette wondered how the people lived down there,--so
many together; and where their cows could feed, and whether there were
any little girls like herself, and if they picked berries, and had
such a dear old black nanny-goat as hers, that gave milk for her
supper, and now had two little black kids, its babies. She didn't know
about those little children in Maine, and that they have little
kids and goats, as well as sweet red berries, to make the days pass
She wanted to go down and see, some day, and her father promised that,
when she was a great girl, she should go down with him on market-days,
to sell the goats'-milk cheeses and the sweet butter that her mother
When the cows and goats have eaten all the grass near the house, her
father drives them before him up farther among the mountains, where
more grass is growing, and there he stays with them many weeks: he
does not even come home at night, but sleeps in a small hut among the
rocks, where, too, he keeps the large clean milk-pails, and the little
one-legged stool upon which he sits at morning and night to milk the
cows and goats.
When the pails are full, the butter is to be made, and the cheese; and
he works while the animals feed. The cows have little bells tied to
their necks, that he may hear and find them should they stray too far.
Many times, when he is away, does his little daughter at home listen,
listen, while she sits before the door, to hear the distant tinkling
of the cow-bells. She is a loving little daughter, and she thinks of
her father so far away alone, and wishes he was coming home to eat
some of the sweet strawberries and cream for supper.
Last summer some travellers came to the house. They stopped at the
door and asked for milk; the mother brought them brimming bowlsful,
and the shy little girl crept up behind her mother with her birch-bark
baskets of berries. The gentlemen took them and thanked her, and one
told of his own little Mary at home, far away over the great sea.
Jeannette often thinks of her, and wonders whether her papa has gone
home to her.
While the gentlemen talked, Jeannette's brother Joseph sat upon the
broad stone doorstep and listened. Presently one gentleman, turning
to him, asked if he would come with them over the mountain to lead the
way, for there are many wild places and high, steep rocks, and they
feared to get lost.
Joseph sprang up from his low seat and said he would go, brought his
tall hat and his mountain-staff, like a long, strong cane, with a
sharp iron at the end, which he can stick into the snow or ice if
there is danger of slipping; and they went merrily on their way, over
the green grass, over the rocks, far up among the snow and ice, and
the frozen streams and rivers that pour down the mountain-sides.
Joseph was brave and gay; he led the way, singing aloud until the
echoes answered from every hillside. It makes one happy to sing, and
when we are busy and happy we sing without thinking of it, as the
birds do. When everything is bright and beautiful in nature around
us, we feel like singing aloud and praising God, who made the earth so
beautiful; then the earth also seems to sing of God who made it,
and the echo seems like its answer of praise. Did you ever hear the
echo,--the voice that seems to come from a hill or a house far away,
repeating whatever you may say? Among the mountains the echoes answer
each other again and again. Jeannette has often heard them.
That night, while the mother and her little girl were eating their
supper, the gentlemen came back again, bringing Joseph with them. He
could not walk now, nor spring from rock to rock with his Alpen staff;
he had fallen and broken his leg, and he must lie still for many days.
But he could keep a cheerful face, and still sing his merry songs; and
as he grew better, and could sit out again on the broad bench beside
the door, he took his knife and pieces of fine wood, and carved
beautiful things,--first a spoon for his little sister, with gentians
on the handle; then a nice bowl, with a pretty strawberry-vine carved
all about the edge. And from this bowl, and with this spoon, she ate
her supper every night,--sweet milk, with the dry cakes of rye bread
broken into it, and sometimes the red strawberries. I know his little
sister loved him dearly, and thanked him in her heart every time she
used the pretty things. How dearly a sister and brother can love each
Then he made other things,--knives, forks, and plates; and at last
one day he sharpened his knife very sharp, chose a very nice, delicate
piece of wood, and carved this beautiful chamois, just like a living
one, only so small. My cousin, who was travelling there, bought it and
brought it home.
When the summer had passed, the father came down from the high
pastures; the butter and cheese making was over, and the autumn work
was now to be done. Do you want to know what the autumn work was, and
how Jeannette could help about it? I will tell you. You must know that
a little way down the mountain-side is a grove of chestnut-trees. Did
you ever see the chestnut-trees? They grow in our woods, and on
the shores of some ponds. In the spring they are covered with long,
yellowish blossoms, and all through the hot summer those blossoms are
at work, turning into sweet chestnuts, wrapped safely in round, thorny
balls, which will prick your fingers sadly if you don't take care. But
when the frost of the autumn nights comes, it cracks open the prickly
ball and shows a shining brown nut inside; then, if we are careful,
we may pull off the covering and take out the nut. Sometimes, indeed,
there are two, three, or four nuts in one shell; I have found them so
Now the autumn work, which I said I would tell you about, is to gather
these chestnuts and store them away,--some to be eaten, boiled or
roasted, by the bright fire in the cold winter days that are coming;
and some to be nicely packed in great bags, and carried on the donkey
down to the town to be sold. The boys of New England, too, know what
good fun it is to gather nuts in the fall, and spread them over the
garret floor to dry, and at last to crack and eat them by the winter
hearth. So when the father says one night at supper-time, "It is
growing cold; I think there will be a frost to-night," Jeannette knows
very well what to do; and she dances away right early in the evening
to her little bed, which is made in a wooden box built up against the
side of the wall, and falls asleep to dream about the chestnut woods,
and the squirrels, and the little brook that leaps and springs from
rock to rock down under the tall, dark trees.
She has gone to bed early, that she may wake with the first daylight,
and she is out of bed in a minute when she hears her father's cheerful
call in the morning, "Come, children, it is time to be off."
Their dinner is packed in a large basket. The donkey stands ready
before the door, with great empty bags hanging at each side, and they
go merrily over the crisp white frost to the chestnut-trees. How the
frost has opened the burrs! He has done more than half their work for
them already. How they laugh and sing and shout to each other as they
gather the smooth brown nuts, filling their baskets, and running to
pour them into the great bags! It is merry autumn work. The sun looks
down upon them through the yellow leaves, and the rocks give them
mossy seats; while here and there comes a bird or a squirrel to see
what these strange people are doing in their woods.
Jeannette declares that the chestnut days are the best in the year.
Perhaps she is right. I am sure I should enjoy them, shouldn't you?
She really helps, although she is but a little girl, and her father
says at night that his little Jean is a dear, good child. It makes
her very happy. She thinks of what he has said while she undresses at
night, unbraiding her hair and unlacing her little blue bodice with
its great white sleeves, and she goes peacefully to sleep, to dream
again of the merry autumn days. And while she dreams good angels must
be near her, for she said her sweet and reverent prayer on her knees,
with a full and thankful heart to the All-Father who gave her so many
She is our little mountain sister. The mountain life is a fresh and
happy one. I should like to stay with this little sister a long, long
THE STORY OF PEN-SE.
Dear children, have you ever watched the sun set? If you live in the
country, I am almost sure you have many times delighted yourselves
with the gold and rosy clouds. But those of you who live in the city
do not often have the opportunity, the high houses and narrow streets
shut out so much of the sky.
I am so happy as to live in the country; and let me tell you where I
go to see the sun set.
The house in which I live has some dark, narrow garret stairs leading
from the third story into a small garret under the roof, and many
and many a time do I go up these narrow stairs, and again up to the
scuttle-window in the roof, open it, and seat myself on the top step
or on the roof itself. Here I can look over the house-tops, and even
over the tree-tops, seeing many things of which I may perhaps tell you
at some time; but to-night we are to look at the sunset.
Can you play that you are up here with me, looking past the houses,
past the elm-trees and the low hills that seem so far away, to where
the sun hangs low, like a great red ball, so bright that we can hardly
look at it? Watch it with me. Now a little part has disappeared; now
it is half gone, and in a minute more we see nothing but the train of
bright clouds it has left behind.
Where did it go?
It seemed to slip down over the edge of the world. To-morrow morning,
if you are up early, you will see it come back again on the other
side. As it goes away from us to-night, it is coming to somebody who
lives far away, round the other side of the world. While we had the
sunshine, she had night; and now, when night is coming to us, it is
morning for her.
I think men have always felt like following the sun to the unknown
West, beyond its golden gate of setting day, and perhaps that has led
many a wanderer on his path of discovery. Let us follow the sun over
the rolling earth.
The sun has gone; shall we go, too, and take a peep round there to see
who is having morning now?
The long, bright sunbeams are sliding over the tossing ocean, and
sparkling on the blue water of a river upon which are hundreds of
boats. The boats are not like those which we see here, with white
sails or long oars. They are clumsy, square-looking things, without
sails, and they have little sheds or houses built upon them. We will
look into one, and see what is to be seen.
There is something like a little yard built all around this boat;
in it are ducks,--more ducks than you can well count. This is their
bedroom, where they sleep at night; but now it is morning, and they
are all stirring,--waddling about as well as they can in the crowd,
and quacking with most noisy voices. They are waking up Kang-hy, their
master, who lives in the middle of the boat; and out he comes from the
door of his odd house, and out comes little Pen-se, his daughter, who
likes to see the ducks go for their breakfast.
The father opens a gate or door in the basket-work fence of the ducks'
house, and they all crowd and hurry to reach the water again, after
staying all night shut up in this cage. There they go, tumbling and
diving. Each must have a thorough bath first of all; then the old
drake leads the way, and they swim off in the bright water along the
shore for a hundred yards, and then among the marshes, where they will
feed all day, and come back at night when they hear the shrill whistle
of Kang-hy calling them to come home and go to bed.
Pen-se and her father will go in to breakfast now, under the bamboo
roof which slides over the middle part of the boat, or can be pushed
back if they desire. As Kang-hy turns to go in, and takes off his
bamboo hat, the sun shines on his bare, shaved head, where only one
lock of hair is left; that is braided into a long, thick tail, and
hangs far down his back. He is very proud of it, and nothing would
induce him to have it cut off. Now it hangs down over his loose blue
nankeen jacket, but when he goes to work he will twist it round upon
the crown of his head, and tuck the end under the coil to keep it out
of the way. Isn't this a funny way for a man to wear his hair? Pen-se
has hers still in little soft curls, but by and by it will be braided,
and at last fastened up into a high knot on the top of her head, as
her mother's is. Her little brother Lin already has his head shaved
almost bare, and waits impatiently for the time when his single lock
of hair will be long enough to braid.
When I was a child it was a very rare thing to see people such as
these in our own land, but now we are quite familiar with these odd
ways of dressing, and our streets have many of these funny names on
Shall we look in to see them at breakfast? Tea for the children as
well as for the father and mother. They have no milk, and do not like
to drink water, so they take many cups of tea every day. And here,
too, are their bowls of rice upon the table, but no spoons or forks
with which to eat it. Pen-se, however, does not need spoon or fork;
she takes two small, smooth sticks, and, lifting the bowl to her
mouth, uses the sticks like a little shovel. You would spill the rice
and soil your dress if you should try to do so, but these children
know no other way, and they have learned to do it quite carefully.
The sticks are called chopsticks; and up in the great house on the
hill, where Pen-se went to carry fish, lives a little lady who has
beautiful pearl chopsticks, and wears roses in her hair. Pen-se often
thinks of her, and wishes she might go again to carry the fish, and
see some of the beautiful things in that garden with the high walls.
Perhaps you have in your own house, or in your schoolroom, pictures of
some of the pretty things that may have been there,--little children
and ladies dressed in flowery gowns, with fans in their hands;
tea-tables and pretty dishes, and a great many lovely flowers and
But now she must not stop to think. Breakfast is over, and the father
must go on shore to his work,--carrying tea-boxes to the store of a
great merchant. Lin, too, goes to his work, of which I will by and by
tell you; and even Pen-se and her little sister, young as they are,
must go with their mother, who has a tanka-boat in which she carries
fresh fruit and vegetables, to the big ships which are lying off
shore. The two little girls can help at the oars, while the mother
steers to guide the boat.
I wish I could tell you how pleasant it is out on the river this
bright morning. A hundred boats are moving; the ducks and geese
have all gone up the stream; the people who live in the boats have
breakfasted, and the fishermen have come out to their work. This
is Lin's work. He works with his uncle Chow, and already his blue
trousers are stripped above his knees, and he stands on the wet
fishing-raft watching some brown birds. Suddenly one of them plunges
into the water and brings up a fish in its yellow bill. Lin takes it
out and sends the bird for another; and such industrious fishermen
are the brown cormorants that they keep Lin and his uncle busy all the
morning, until the two large baskets are filled with fish, and then
the cormorants may catch for themselves. Lin brings his bamboo pole,
rests it across his shoulders, hangs one basket on each end, and goes
up into the town to sell his fish. Here it was that Pen-se went on
that happy day when she saw the little lady in the house on the hill,
and she has not forgotten the wonders of that day in the streets.
The gay sign-posts in front of the shops, with colors flying; the busy
workmen,--tinkers mending or making their wares; blacksmiths with all
their tools set up at the corners of the streets; barbers with
grave faces, intently braiding the long hair of their customers;
water-carriers with deep water-buckets hung from a bamboo pole like
Lin's fish-baskets; the soldiers in their paper helmets, wadded gowns,
and quilted petticoats, with long, clumsy guns over their shoulders;
and learned scholars in brown gowns, blue bordered, and golden birds
on their caps. The high officers, cousins to the emperor, have the
sacred yellow girdle round their waists, and very long braided tails
hanging below their small caps. Here and there you may see a high,
narrow box, resting on poles, carried by two men. It is the only kind
of carriage which you will see in these streets, and in it is a lady
going out to take the air; although I am sadly afraid she gets but
little, shut up there in her box. I would rather be like Pen-se, a
poor, hardworking little girl, with a fresh life on the river, and a
hard mat spread for her bed in the boat at night. How would you like
to live in a boat on a pleasant river with the ducks and geese? I
think you would have a very jolly time, rocked to sleep by the tide,
and watched over by the dancing boat-lights. But this poor lady
couldn't walk, or enjoy much, if she were allowed. Shall I tell you
why? When she was a very little girl, smaller than you are, smaller
than Pen-se is now, her soft baby feet were bound up tightly, the toes
turned and pressed under, and the poor little foot cramped so that
she could scarcely stand. This was done that her feet might never
grow large, for in this country on the other side of the world one is
considered very beautiful who has small feet; and now that she is a
grown lady, as old perhaps as your mamma, she wears such little shoes
you would think them too small for yourself. It is true they are very
pretty shoes, made of bright-colored satin, and worked all over
with gold and silver thread, and they have beautiful white soles of
rice-paper; and the poor lady looks down at them and says to herself
proudly, "Only three inches long." And forgetting how much the
bandages pained her, and not thinking how sad it is only to be able
to hobble about a little, instead of running and leaping as children
should, she binds up the feet of Lou, her dear little daughter, in the
great house on the hill, and makes her a poor, helpless child; not
so happy, with all her flower-gardens, gold and silver fish, and
beautiful gold-feathered birds, as Pen-se with her broad, bare feet,
and comfortable, fat little toes, as she stands in the wet tanka-boat,
helping her mother wash it with river-water, while the leather shoes
of both of them lie high and dry on the edge of the wharf, until the
wet work is done.
But we are forgetting Lin, who has carried his fish up into the town
to sell. Here is a whole street where nothing is sold but food. I
should call it Market Street, and I dare say they do the same in a way
of their own.
What will all these busy people have for dinner to-day? Fat
bears'-paws, brought from the dark forest fifty miles away,--these
will do for that comfortable-looking mandarin with the red ball on
the top of his cap. I think he has eaten something of the same kind
before. A birds'-nest soup for my lady in the great house on the hill;
birds' nests brought from the rocks where the waves dash, and the
birds feel themselves very safe. But "Such a delicious soup!" said
Madam Faw-Choo, and Yang-lo, her son, sent the fisherman again to the
black rocks for more.
What will the soldiers have,--the officer who wears thick satin boots,
and doesn't look much like fighting in his gay silk dress? A stew of
fat puppies for him, and only boiled rats for the porter who carries
the heavy tea-boxes. But there is tea for all, and rice, too, as much
as they desire; and, although I shouldn't care to be invited to dine
with any of them, I don't doubt they enjoy the food very much.
In the midst of all this buying and selling Lin sells his fish, some
to the English gentleman, and some to the grave-faced man in the blue
gown; and he goes happily home to his own dinner in the boat. Rice
again, and fried mice, and the merry face and small, slanting black
eyes of his little sister to greet him. After dinner his father has
a pipe to smoke, before he goes again to his work. After all, why not
eat puppies and mice as well as calves and turtles and oysters? And as
for birds'-nest soup, I should think it quite as good as chicken pie.
It is only custom that makes any difference.
So pass the days of our child Pen-se, who lives on the great river
which men call the child of the ocean. But it was not always so.
She was born among the hills where the tea grows with its glossy,
myrtle-like leaves, and white, fragrant blossoms. When the tea-plants
were in bloom, Pen-se first saw the light; and when she was hardly
more than a baby she trotted behind her father, while he gathered the
leaves, dried and rolled them, and then packed them in square boxes to
come in ships across the ocean for your papa and mine to drink.
Here, too, grew the mulberry-trees, with their purple fruit and white;
and Pen-se learned to know and to love the little worms that eat the
mulberry-leaves, and then spin for themselves a silken shell, and fall
into a long sleep inside of it. She watched her mother spin off the
fine silk and make it into neat skeins, and once she rode on her
mother's back to market to sell it. You could gather mulberry-leaves,
and set up these little silkworm boxes on the windowsill of your
schoolroom. I have seen silk and flax and cotton all growing in a
pleasant schoolroom, to show the scholars of what linen and silk and
cotton are made.
Now those days are all past. She can hardly remember them, she was so
little then; and she has learned to be happy in her new home on the
river, where they came when the fire burned their house, and the
tea-plants and the mulberry-trees were taken by other men.
Sometimes at night, after the day's work is over, the ducks have
come home, and the stars have come out, she sits at the door of the
boat-house, and watches the great bright fireflies over the marshes,
and thinks of the blue lake Syhoo, covered with lilies, where gilded
boats are sailing, and the people seem so happy.
Up in the high-walled garden of the great house on the hill, the
night-moths have spread their broad, soft wings, and are flitting
among the flowers, and the little girl with the small feet lies on her
silken bed, half asleep. She, too, thinks of the lake and the lilies,
but she knows nothing about Pen-se, who lives down upon the river.
See, the sun has gone from them. It must be morning for us now.
THE LITTLE DARK GIRL.
In this part of the world, Manenko would certainly be considered
a very wild little girl. I wonder how you would enjoy her for a
playmate. She has never been to school, although she is more than
seven years old, and doesn't know how to read, or even to tell her
letters; she has never seen a book but once, and she has never learned
to sew or to knit.
If you should try to play at paper dolls with her, she would make very
funny work with the dresses, I assure you. Since she never wore a gown
or bonnet or shoes herself, how should she know how to put them on to
the doll? But, if she had a doll like herself, I am sure she would
be as fond of it as you are of yours; and it would be a very cunning
little dolly, I should think. Perhaps you have one that looks somewhat
like this little girl in the picture.
Now I will tell you of some things which she can do.
She can paddle the small canoe on the river; she can help to hoe the
young corn, and can find the wild bees' honey in the woods, gather the
scarlet fruit when it is fully ripe and falls from the trees, and help
her mother to pound the corn in the great wooden mortar. All this, and
much more, as you will see, Manenko can do; for every little girl on
the round world can help her mother, and do many useful things.
Would you like to know more of her,--how she looks, and where she
lives, and what she does all day and all night?
Here is a little round house, with low doorways, most like those of a
dog's house; you see we should have to stoop in going in. Look at the
round, pointed roof, made of the long rushes that grow by the river,
and braided together firmly with strips of mimosa-bark; fine, soft
grass is spread all over this roof to keep out the rain.
If you look on the roof of the house across the street you will see
that it is covered with strips of wood called shingles, which are laid
one over the edge of the other; and when it is a rainy day you can see
how the rain slips and slides off from these shingles, and runs and
drips away from the spout.
Now, on this little house where Manenko lives there are no shingles,
but the smooth, slippery grass is almost as good; and the rain slides
over it and drips away, hardly ever coming in to wet the people
inside, or the hard beds made of rushes, like the roof, and spread
upon the floor of earth.
In this house lives Manenko, with Maunka her mother, Sekomi her
father, and Zungo and Shobo her two brothers.
They are all very dark, darker than the brown baby. I believe you
would call them black, but they are not really quite so. Their lips
are thick, their noses broad, and instead of hair, their heads are
covered with wool, such as you might see on a black sheep. This wool
is braided and twisted into little knots and strings all over their
heads, and bound with bits of red string, or any gay-looking thread.
They think it looks beautiful, but I am afraid we should not agree
Now we will see what clothes they wear.
You remember Agoonack, who wore the white bear's-skin, because she
lived in the very cold country; and the little brown baby, who wore
nothing but a string of beads, because she lived in the warm country.
Manenko, too, lives in a warm country, and wears no clothes; but on
her arms and ankles are bracelets and anklets, with little bits of
copper and iron hanging to them, which tinkle as she walks; and she
also, like the brown baby, has beads for her neck.
Her father and mother, and Zungo her brother, have aprons and mantles
of antelope skins; and they, too, wear bracelets and anklets like
Little Shobo is quite a baby and runs in the sunshine, like his little
sister, without clothes. Dear little Shobo! how funny and happy he
must look, and how fond he must be of his little sister, and our
little sister, Manenko! We have all seen such little dark brothers
and sisters. His short, soft wool is not yet braided or twisted, but
crisps in little close curls all over his head.
In the morning they must be up early, for the father is going to hunt,
and Zungo will go with him. The mother prepares the breakfast, small
cakes of bread made from the pounded corn, scarlet beans, eaten with
honey, and plenty of milk from the brown cow. She brings it in a deep
jug, and they dip in their hands for spoons.
All the meat is eaten, and to-day the men must go out over the broad,
grassy fields for more. They will find the beautiful young antelope,
so timid and gentle as to be far more afraid of you than you would be
of them. They are somewhat like small deer, striped and spotted, and
they have large, dark eyes, so soft and earnest you cannot help loving
them. Here, too, are the buffalo, like large cows and oxen with strong
horns, and the great elephants with long trunks and tusks. Sometimes
even a lion is to be met, roused from his sleep by the noise of the
hunters; for the lion sleeps in the daytime and generally walks abroad
only at night. When you are older you can read the stories of famous
lion and elephant hunters, and of strange and thrilling adventures in
the "Dark Continent."
It would be a wonderful thing to you and me to see all these strange
or beautiful animals, but Zungo and his father have seen them so many
times that they are thinking only of the meat they will bring home,
and, taking their long spears and the basket of ground nuts and meal
which the mother has made ready, they are off with other hunters
before the sun is up.
Now the mother takes her hoe, and, calling her little girl to help,
hoes the young corn which is growing on the round hill behind the
house. I must tell you something about the little hill. It looks like
any other hill, you would think, and could hardly believe that there
is anything very wonderful to tell about it. But listen to me.
A great many years ago there was no hill there at all, and the ground
was covered with small white ants. You have seen the little ant-houses
many a time on the garden-path, and all the ants at work, carrying
grains of sand in their mouths, and running this way and that, as if
they were busy in the most important work. Oh, the little ants are
very wise! They seem to know how to contrive great things and are
never idle. "Go to the ant; consider her ways, and be wise," said one
of the world's wisest men.
Well, on the spot where this hill now stands the white ants began to
work. They were not satisfied with small houses like those which we
have seen, but they worked day after day, week after week, and even
years, until they had built this hill higher than the house in which
I live, and inside it is full of chambers and halls, and wonderful
arched passages. They built this great house, but they do not live
there now. I don't know why they moved,--perhaps because they didn't
like the idea of having such near neighbors when Sekomi began to
build his hut before their door. But, however it was, they went, and,
patient little creatures that they are, built another just like it a
mile or so away; and Sekomi said: "The hill is a fine place to plant
my early corn."
There is but little hoeing to do this morning, and, while the work
goes on, Shobo, the baby, rolls in the grass, sucking a piece of
sugar-cane, as I have seen children suck a stick of candy. Haven't
The mother has baskets to make. On the floor of the hut is a heap of
fine, twisting tree-roots which she brought from the forest yesterday,
and under the shadow of her grassy roof she sits before the door
weaving them into strong, neat baskets, like the one in which the men
carried their dinner when they went to hunt. While she works other
women come too with their work, sit beside her in the shade, and
chatter away in a very queer-sounding language. We couldn't understand
it at all; but we should hear them always call Manenko's mother
Ma-Zungo, meaning Zungo's mother, instead of saying Maunka, which you
remember I told you is her name. Zungo is her oldest boy, you
know, and ever since he was born she has been called nothing but
Ma-Zungo,--just as if, when a lady comes into your school, the teacher
should say: "This is Joe's mother," or "This is Teddy's mamma," so
that the children should all know her.
So the mother works on the baskets and talks with the women; but
Manenko has heard the call of the honey-bird, the brisk little chirp
of "Chiken, chiken, chik, churr, churr," and she is away to the wood
to follow his call, and bring home the honey.
She runs beneath the tall trees, looking up for the small brown bird;
then she stops and listens to hear him again, when close beside her
comes the call, "Chiken, chiken, chik, churr, churr," and there sits
the brown bird above a hole in the tree, where the bees are flying in
and out, their legs yellow with honey-dust. It is too high for Manenko
to reach, but she marks the place and says to herself: "I will tell
Ra when he comes home." Who is Ra? Why, that is her name for "father."
She turns to go home, but stops to listen to the wild shouts and songs
of the women who have left the huts and are coming down towards the
river to welcome their chief with lulliloo, praising him by such
strange names as "Great lion," "Great buffalo."
The chief comes from a long journey with the young men up the river
in canoes, to hunt the elephant, and bring home the ivory tusks,
from which we have many beautiful things made. The canoes are full of
tusks, and, while the men unload them, the women are shouting: "Sleep,
my lord, my great chief." Manenko listens while she stands under the
trees,--listens for only a minute, and then runs to join her mother
and add her little voice to the general noise.
The chief is very proud and happy to bring home such a load; before
sunset it will all be carried up to the huts, the men will dress in
their very best, and walk in a gay procession. Indeed, they can't
dress much; no coats or hats or nicely polished boots have they to put
on, but some will have the white ends of oxen's tails in their hair,
some a plume of black ostrich feathers, and the chief himself has a
very grand cap made from the yellow mane of an old lion. The drum will
beat, the women will shout, while the men gather round a fire, and
roast and eat great slices of ox-meat, and tell the story of their
famous elephant-hunt. How they came to the bushes with fine, silvery
leaves and sweet bark, which the elephant eats, and there hiding,
watched and waited many hours, until the ground shook, with the heavy
tread of a great mother-elephant and her two calves, coming up from
the river, where they had been to drink. Their trunks were full
of water, and they tossed them up, spouting the water like a fine
shower-bath over their hot heads and backs, and now, cooled and
refreshed, began to eat the silvery leaves of the bushes. Then the
hunters threw their spears thick and fast; after two hours, the great
creature lay still upon the ground,--she was dead.
So day after day they had hunted, loading the canoes with ivory, and
sailing far up the river; far up where the tall rushes wave, twisted
together by the twining morning-glory vines; far up where the
alligators make great nests in the river-bank, and lay their eggs,
and stretch themselves in the sunshine, half asleep inside their scaly
armor; far up where the hippopotamus is standing in his drowsy dream
on the bottom of the river, with the water covering him, head and all.
He is a great, sleepy fellow, not unlike a very large, dark-brown pig,
with a thick skin and no hair. Here he lives under the water all day,
only once in a while poking up his nose for a breath of fresh air. And
here is the mother-hippopotamus, with her baby standing upon her neck,
that he may be nearer the top of the water. Think how funny he must
All day long they stand here under the water, half asleep, sometimes
giving a loud grunt or snore, and sometimes, I am sorry to say,
tipping over a canoe which happens to float over their heads. But at
night, when men are asleep, the great beasts come up out of the river
and eat the short, sweet grass upon the shore, and look about to see
the world a little. Oh, what mighty beasts! Men are so small and weak
beside them. And yet, because the mind of man is so much above theirs,
he can rule them; for God made man to be king of the whole earth, and
greater than all.
All these wonderful things the men have seen, and Manenko listens to
their stories until the moon is high and the stars have almost faded
in her light. Then her father and Zungo come home, bringing the
antelope and buffalo meat, too tired to tell their story until the
next day. So, after eating supper, they are all soon asleep upon the
mats which form their beds. It is a hard kind of bed, but a good one,
if you don't have too many mice for bedfellows. A little bright-eyed
mouse is a pretty creature, but one doesn't care to sleep with him.
These are simple, happy people; they live out of doors most of the
time, and they love the sunshine, the rain, and the wind. They have
plenty to eat,--the pounded corn, milk and honey, and scarlet beans,
and the hunters bring meat, and soon it will be time for the wild
water-birds to come flocking down the river,--white pelicans and brown
ducks, and hundreds of smaller birds that chase the skimming flies
over the water.
If Manenko could read, she would be sorry that she has no books;
and if she knew what dolls are, she might be longing every day for a
beautiful wax doll, with curling hair, and eyes to open and shut. But
these are things of which she knows nothing at all, and she is happy
enough in watching the hornets building their hanging nests on the
branches of the trees, cutting the small sticks of sugar-cane, or
following the honey-bird's call.
If the children who have books would oftener leave them, and study
the wonders of the things about them,--of the birds, the plants, the
curious creatures that live and work on the land and in the air and
water,--it would be better for them. Try it, dear children; open your
eyes and look into the ways and forms of life in the midst of which
God has placed you, and get acquainted with them, till you feel that
they, too, are your brothers and sisters, and God your Father and
LOUISE, THE CHILD OF THE BEAUTIFUL RIVER RHINE.
Have you heard of the beautiful River Rhine--how at first it hides, a
little brook among the mountains and dark forests, and then steals out
into the sunshine, and leaps down the mountain-side, and hurries
away to the sea, growing larger and stronger as it runs, curling and
eddying among the rocks, and sweeping between the high hills where the
grape-vines grow and the solemn old castles stand?
How people come from far and near to see and to sail upon the
beautiful river! And the children who are so blessed as to be born
near it, and to play on its shores through all the happy young years
of their lives, although they may go far away from it in the after
years, never, never forget the dear and beautiful River Rhine.
It is only a few miles away from the Rhine--perhaps too far for you to
walk, but not too far for me--that we shall find a fine large house,
a house with pleasant gardens about it, broad gravel walks, and soft,
green grass-plats to play upon, and gay flowering trees and bushes,
while the rose-vines are climbing over the piazza, and opening
rose-buds are peeping in at the chamber windows.
Isn't this a pleasant house? I wish we could all live in as charming
a home, by as blue and lovely a river, and with as large and sweet
a garden, or, if we might have such a place for our school, how
delightful it would be!
Here lives Louise, my blue-eyed, sunny-haired little friend, and here
in the garden she plays with Fritz and sturdy little Gretchen. And
here, too, at evening the father and mother come to sit on the
piazza among the roses, and the children leave their games, to nestle
together on the steps while the dear brother Christian plays softly
and sweetly on his flute.
Louise is a motherly child, already eight years old, and always
willing and glad to take care of the younger ones; indeed, she calls
Gretchen _her_ baby, and the little one loves dearly her child-mamma.
They live in this great house, and they have plenty of toys and books,
and plenty of good food, and comfortable little beds to sleep in at
night, although, like Jeannette's, they are only neat little boxes
built against the side of the wall.
But near them, in the valley, live the poor people, in small, low
houses. They eat black bread, wear coarse clothes, and even the
children must work all day that they may have food for to-morrow.
The mother of Louise is a gentle, loving woman; she says to her
children: "Dear children, to-day we are rich, we can have all that
we want, but we will not forget the poor. You may some day be poor
yourselves, and, if you learn now what poverty is, you will be more
ready to meet it when it comes." So, day after day, the great stove
in the kitchen is covered with stew-pans and kettles, in which are
cooking dinners for the sick and the poor, and day after day, as the
dinner-hour draws near, Louise will come, and Fritz, and even little
Gretchen, saying: "Mother, may I go?" "May I go?" and the mother
answers: "Dear children, you shall all go together"; and she fills the
bowls and baskets, and sends her sunny-hearted children down into the
valley to old Hans the gardener, who has been lame with rheumatism so
many years; and to young Marie, the pale, thin girl, who was so merry
and rosy-cheeked in the vineyard a year ago; and to the old, old woman
with the brown, wrinkled face and bowed head, who sits always in the
sunshine before the door, and tries to knit; but the needles drop from
the poor trembling hands, and the stitches slip off, and she cannot
see to pick them up. She is too deaf to hear the children as they come
down the road, and she is nodding her poor old head, and feeling about
in her lap for the lost needle, when Louise, with her bright eyes,
spies it, picks it up, and before the old woman knows she has come,
a soft little hand is laid in the brown, wrinkled one, and the little
girl is shouting in her ear that she has brought some dinner from
mamma. It makes a smile shine in the old half-blind eyes. It is always
the happiest part of the day to her when the dear little lady comes
with her dinner. And it made Louise happy too, for nothing repays us
so well as what we do unselfishly for others.
These summer days are full of delight for the children. It is not all
play for them, to be sure; but then, work is often even more charming
than play, as I think some little girls know when they have been
helping their mothers,--running of errands, dusting the furniture,
and sewing little squares of patchwork that the baby may have a
cradle-quilt made entirely by her little sister.
Louise can knit, and, indeed, every child and woman in that country
knits. You would almost laugh to see how gravely the little girl takes
out her stocking, for she has really begun her first stocking, and
sits on the piazza-steps for an hour every morning at work. Then the
little garden, which she calls her own, must be weeded. The gardener
would gladly do it, but Louise has a hoe of her own, which her father
bought in the spring, and, bringing it to his little daughter, said:
"Let me see how well my little girl can take care of her own garden."
And the child has tried very hard; sometimes, it is true, she would
let the weeds grow pretty high before they were pulled up, but, on the
whole, the garden promises well, and there are buds on her moss-rose
bush. It is good to take care of a garden, for, besides the pleasure
the flowers can bring us, we learn how watchful we must be to root out
the weeds, and how much trimming and care the plants need; so we learn
how to watch over our own hearts.
She has books, too, and studies a little each day,--studies at home
with her mother, for there is no school near enough for her to go to
it, and while she and Fritz are so young, their mother teaches them,
while Christian, who is already more than twelve years old, has gone
to the school upon that beautiful hill which can be seen from Louise's
chamber window,--the school where a hundred boys and girls are
studying music. For, ever since he was a baby, Christian has loved
music; he has sung the very sweetest little songs to Louise, while she
was yet so young as to lie in her cradle, and he has whistled until
the birds among the bushes would answer him again, and now, when he
comes home from school to spend some long summer Sunday, he always
brings the flute, and plays, as I told you in the beginning of the
When the summer days are over, what comes next? You do not surely
forget the autumn, when the leaves of the maples turn crimson and
yellow, and the oaks are red and brown, and you scuff your feet along
the path ankle-deep in fallen leaves!
On the banks of the Rhine the autumn is not quite like ours. You shall
see how our children of the great house will spend an autumn day.
Their father and mother have promised to go with them to the vineyards
as soon as the grapes are ripe enough for gathering, and on this sunny
September morning the time has really come.
In the great covered baskets are slices of bread and German sausage,
bottles of milk and of beer, and plenty of fresh and delicious prunes,
for the prune orchards are loaded with ripe fruit. This is their
dinner, for they will not be home until night.
Oh, what a charming day for the children! Little Gretchen is rolling
in the grass with delight, while Louise runs to bring her own little
basket, in which to gather grapes.
They must ride in the broad old family carriage, for the little ones
cannot walk so far; but, when they reach the river, they will take a
boat with white sails, and go down to where the steep steps and path
lead up on the other side, up the sunny green bank to the vineyard,
where already the peasant girls have been at work ever since sunrise.
Here the grapes are hanging in heavy, purple clusters; the sun has
warmed them through and through, and made them sweet to the very
heart. Oh, how delicious they are, and how beautiful they look, heaped
up in the tall baskets, which the girls and women are carrying on
their heads! How the children watch these peasant-girls, all dressed
in neat little jackets, and many short skirts one above another, red
and blue, white and green. On their heads are the baskets of grapes,
and they never drop nor spill them, but carry them steadily down the
steep, narrow path to the great vats, where the young men stand on
short ladders to reach the top, and pour in the purple fruit. Then
the grapes are crushed till the purple juice runs out, and that is
wine,--such wine as even the children may drink in their little silver
cups, for it is even better than milk. You may be sure that they have
some at dinner-time, when they cluster round the flat rock below the
dark stone castle, with the warm noonday sun streaming across their
mossy table, and the mother opens the basket and gives to every one a
Below them is the river, with its boats and beautiful shining water;
behind them are the vine-covered walls of that old castle where two
hundred years ago lived armed knights and stately ladies; and all
about them is the rich September air, full of the sweet fragrance
of the grapes, and echoing with the songs and laughter of the
grape-gatherers. On their rocky table are purple bunches of fruit, in
their cups the new wine-juice, and in their hearts all the joy of the
merry grape season.
There are many days like this in the autumn, but the frost will come
at last, and the snow too. This is winter, but winter brings the best
pleasure of all.
When two weeks of the winter had nearly passed, the children, as you
may suppose, began to think of Christmas, and, indeed, their best
and most loving friend had been preparing for them the sweetest of
Christmas presents. Ten days before Christmas it came, however. Can
you guess what it was? Something for all of them,--something which
Christian will like just as well as little Gretchen will, and the
father and mother will perhaps be more pleased than any one else.
Do you know what it is? What do you think of a little baby brother,--a
little round, sweet, blue-eyed baby brother as a Christmas present for
When Christmas Eve came, the mother said: "The children must have
their Christmas-tree in my room, for baby is one of the presents, and
I don't think I can let him be carried out and put upon the table in
the hall, where we had it last year."
So all day long the children are kept away from their mother's room.
Their father comes home with his great coat-pockets very full of
something, but, of course, the children don't know what. He comes and
goes, up stairs and down, and, while they are all at play in the snow,
a fine young fir-tree is brought in and carried up. Louise knows it,
for she picked up a fallen branch upon the stairs, but she doesn't
tell Fritz and Gretchen.
How they all wait and long for the night to come! They sit at the
windows, watching the red sunset light upon the snow, and cannot think
of playing or eating their supper. The parlor door is open, and all
are waiting and listening. A little bell rings, and in an instant
there is a scampering up the broad stairs to the door of mother's
room; again the little bell rings, and the door is opened wide by
their father, who stands hidden behind it.
At the foot of their mother's white-curtained bed stands the little
fir-tree; tiny candles are burning all over it like little stars, and
glittering golden fruits are hanging among the dark-green branches.
On the white-covered table are laid Fritz's sword and Gretchen's big
doll, they being too heavy for the tree to hold. Under the branches
Louise finds charming things; such a little work-box as it is a
delight to see, with a lock and key, and inside, thimble and scissors,
and neat little spools of silk and thread. Then there are the fairy
stories of the old Black Forest, and that most charming of all little
books, "The White Cat," and an ivory cup and ball for Fritz. Do you
remember where the ivory comes from? And, lest Baby Hans should think
himself forgotten, there is an ivory rattle for him.
There he lies in the nurse's arms, his blue eyes wide open with
wonder, and in a minute the children, with arms full of presents, have
gathered round the old woman's arm-chair,--gathered round the best and
sweetest little Christmas present of all. And the happy mother, who
sits up among the pillows, taking her supper, while she watches her
children, forgets to eat, and leaves the gruel to grow cold, but her
heart is warm enough.
Why is not Christian here to-night? In the school of music, away on
the hill, he is singing a grand Christmas hymn, with a hundred young
voices to join him. It is very grand and sweet, full of thanks and of
love. It makes the little boy feel nearer to all his loved ones, and
in his heart he is thanking the dear Father who has given them that
best little Christmas present,--the baby.
LOUISE, THE CHILD OF THE WESTERN FOREST.
There are many things happening in this world, dear children,--things
that happen to you yourselves day after day, which you are too young
to understand at the time. By and by, when you grow to be as old as I
am, you will remember and wonder about them all.
Now, it was just one of these wonderful things, too great for the
young children to understand, that happened to our little Louise and
her brothers and sister when the Christmas time had come around again,
and the baby was more than a year old.
It was a cold, stormy night; there were great drifts of snow, and
the wind was driving it against the windows. In the beautiful great
parlor, beside the bright fire, sat the sweet, gentle mother, and
in her lap lay the stout little Hans. The children had their little
chairs before the fire, and watched the red and yellow flames, while
Louise had already taken out her knitting-work.
They were all very still, for their father seemed sad and troubled,
and the children were wondering what could be the matter. Their mother
looked at them and smiled, but, after all, it was only a sad smile. I
think it is hardest for the father, when he can no longer give to wife
and children their pleasant home; but, if they can be courageous and
happy when they have to give it up, it makes his heart easier and
"I must tell the children' to-night," said the father, looking at his
wife, and she answered quite cheerfully: "Yes, tell them; they will
not be sad about it I know."
So the father told to his wondering little ones that he had lost all
his money; the beautiful great house and gardens were no longer his,
and they must all leave their pleasant home near the Rhine, and cross
the great, tossing ocean, to find a new home among the forests or the
As you may suppose, the children didn't fully understand this. I
don't think you would yourself. You would be quite delighted with the
packing and moving, and the pleasant journey in the cars, and the new
and strange things you would see on board the ship, and it would be
quite a long time before you could really know what it was to lose
your own dear home.
So the children were not sad; you know their mother said they would
not be. But when they were safely tucked up in their little beds, and
tenderly kissed by the most loving lips, Louise could not go to sleep
for thinking of this strange moving, and wondering what they should
carry, and how long they should stay. For she had herself once been on
a visit to her uncle in the city, carrying her clothes in a new little
square trunk, and riding fifty miles in the cars, and she thought it
would be quite a fine thing that they should all pack up trunks full
of clothing, and go together on even a longer journey.
A letter had been written to tell Christian, and the next day he came
home from the school. His uncles in the city begged him to stay with
them, but the boy said earnestly: "If my father must cross the sea, I
too must go with him."
They waited only for the winter's cold to pass away, and when the
first robins began to sing among the naked trees, they had left the
fine large house,--left the beautiful gardens where the children
used to play, left the great, comfortable arm-chairs and sofas, the
bookcases and tables, and the little beds beside the wall. Besides
their clothes, they had taken nothing with them but two great wooden
chests full of beautiful linen sheets and table-cloths. These had been
given to the mother by her mother long ago, before any of the children
were born, and they must be carried to the new home. You will see, by
and by, how glad the family all were to have them.
Did you ever go on board a ship? It is almost like a great house upon
the water, but the rooms in it are very small, and so are the windows.
Then there is the long deck, where we may walk in the fresh air and
watch the water and the sea-birds, or the sailors at work upon the
high masts among the ropes, and the white sails that spread out like a
white bird's wings, and sweep the ship along over the water.
It was in such a ship that our children found themselves, with
their father and mother, when the snow was gone and young grass
was beginning to spring up on the land. But of this they could see
nothing, for in a day they had flown on the white wings far out over
the water, and as Louise clung to her father's hand and stood upon the
deck at sunset, she saw only water and sky all about on every side,
and the red clouds of the sunset. It was a little sad, and quite
strange to her, but her younger brothers and sisters were already
asleep in the small beds of the ship, which, as perhaps you know, are
built up against the wall, just as their beds were at home. Louise
kissed her father and went down, too, to bed, for you must know that
on board ship you go _down_ stairs to bed instead of _up_ stairs.
After all, if father, mother, brother, and sister can still cling to
each other and love each other, it makes little difference where they
are, for love is the best thing in the universe, and nothing is good
They lived for many days in the ship, and the children, after a little
time, were not afraid to run about the deck and talk with the sailors,
who were always very kind to them. And Louise felt quite at home
sitting in her little chair beside the great mast, while she knit upon
her stocking,--a little stocking now, one for the baby.
Christian had brought his flute, and at night he played to them as he
used at home, and, indeed, they were all so loving and happy together
that it was not much sorrow to lose the home while they kept each
Sometimes a hard day would come, when the clouds swept over them, and
the rain and the great waves tossed the ship, making them all sick,
and sad too, for a time; but the sun was sure to come out at last, as
I can assure you it always will, and, on the whole, it was a pleasant
journey for them all.
It was a fine, sunny May day when they reached the land again. No
time, though, for them to go Maying, for only see how much is to
be done! Here are all the trunks and the linen-chests, and all the
children, too, to be disposed of, and they are to stop but two days in
this city. Then they must be ready for a long journey in the cars and
steamboats, up rivers and across lakes, and sometimes for miles and
miles through woods, where they see no houses nor people, excepting
here and there a single log cabin with two or three ragged children at
play outside, or a baby creeping over the doorstep, while farther on
among the trees stands a man with his axe, cutting, with heavy blows,
some tall trees into such logs as those of which the house is built.
These are new and strange sights to the children of the River Rhine.
They wonder, and often ask their parents if they, too, shall live in a
little log house like that.
How fresh and fragrant the new logs are for the dwelling, and how
sweet the pine and spruce boughs for a bed! A good new log house in
the green woods is the best home in the world.
Oh, how heartily tired they all are when at last they stop! They have
been riding by day and by night. The children have fallen asleep with
heads curled down upon their arms upon the seats of the car, and the
mother has had very hard work to keep little Hans contented and happy.
But here at last they have stopped. Here is the new home.
They have left the cars at a very small town. It has ten or twelve
houses and one store, and they have taken here a great wagon with
three horses to carry them yet a few miles farther to a lonely, though
beautiful place. It is on the edge of a forest. The trees are very
tall, their trunks moss-covered; and when you look far in among them
it is so dark that no sunlight seems to fall on the brown earth. But
outside is sunshine, and the young spring grass and wild flowers,
different from those which grow on the Rhine banks.
But where is their house?
Here is indeed something new for them. It is almost night; no house is
near, and they have no sleeping-place but the great wagon. But their
cheerful mother packs them all away in the back part of the wagon,
on some straw, covering them with shawls as well as she can, and bids
them good-night, saying, "You can see the stars whenever you open your
It is a new bed and a hard one. However, the children are tired enough
to sleep well; but they woke very early, as you or I certainly should
if we slept in the great concert-hall of the birds. Oh, how those
birds of the woods did begin to sing, long before sunrise! And
Christian was out from his part of the bed in a minute, and off four
miles to the store, to buy some bread for breakfast.
An hour after sunrise he was back again, and Louise had gathered
sticks, of which her father made a bright fire. And now the mother is
teaching her little daughter how to make tea, and Fritz and Gretchen
are poking long sticks into the ashes to find the potatoes which were
hidden there to roast.
To them it is a beautiful picnic, like those happy days in the grape
season; but Louise can see that her mother is a little grieved at
having them sleep in the wagon with no house to cover them. And when
breakfast is over she says to the father that the children must be
taken back to the village to stay until the house is built. He, too,
had thought so; and the mother and children go back to the little
Christian alone stays with his father, working with his small axe as
his father does with the large one; but to both it is very hard work
to cut trees; because it is something they have never done before.
They do their best, and when he is not too tired, Christian whistles
to cheer himself.
After the first day a man is hired to help, and it is not a great
while before the little house is built--built of great, rough logs,
still covered with brown bark and moss. All the cracks are stuffed
with moss to keep out the rain and cold, and there is one window and a
It is a poor little house to come to after leaving the grand old one
by the Rhine, but the children are delighted when their father comes
with the great wagon to take them to their new home.
And into this house one summer night they come--without beds, tables,
or chairs; really with nothing but the trunks and linen-chests. The
dear old linen-chests, see only how very useful they have become! What
shall be the supper-table for this first meal in the new house? What
but the largest of the linen-chests, round which they all gather, some
sitting on blocks of wood, and the little ones standing! And after
supper what shall they have for beds? What but the good old chests
again! For many and many a day and night they are used, and the mother
is, over and over again, thankful that she brought them.
As the summer days go by, the children pick berries in the woods and
meadows, and Fritz is feeling himself a great boy when his father
expects him to take care of the old horse, blind of one eye, bought to
drag the loads of wood to market.
Louise is learning to love the grand old trees where the birds and
squirrels live. She sits for hours with her work on some mossy cushion
under the great waving boughs, and she is so silent and gentle that
the squirrels learn to come very near her, turning their heads every
minute to see if she is watching, and almost laughing at her with
their sharp, bright eyes, while they are cramming their cheeks full of
nuts--not to eat now, you know, but to carry home to the storehouses
in some comfortable hollow trees, to be saved for winter use. When the
snow comes, you see, they will not be able to find any nuts.
One day Louise watched them until she suddenly thought, "Why don't we,
too, save nuts for the winter?" and the next day she brought a
basket and the younger children, instead of her knitting-work. They
frightened away the squirrels, to be sure, but they carried home a
fine large basketful of nuts.
Oh, how much might be seen in those woods on a summer day!--birds and
flowers, and such beautiful moss! I have seen it myself, so soft and
thick, better than the softest cushion to sit on, and then so lovely
to look at, with its long, bright feathers of green.
Sometimes Louise has seen the quails going out for a walk; the mother
with her seven babies all tripping primly along behind her, the wee,
brown birds; and all running, helter-skelter, in a minute, if they
hear a noise among the bushes, and hiding, each one, his head under a
broad leaf, thinking, poor little foolish things, that no one can see
Christian whistles to the quails a long, low call; they will look this
way and that and listen, and at last really run towards him without
Before winter comes the log house is made more comfortable; beds and
chairs are bought, and a great fire burns in the fireplace. But do the
best they can the rain will beat in between the logs, and after the
first snowstorm one night, a white pointed drift is found on the
breakfast-table. They laugh at it, and call it ice-cream, but they
almost feel more like crying, with cold blue fingers, and toes that
even the warm knit stockings can't keep comfortable. Never mind, the
swift snowshoes will make them skim over the snow-crust like birds
flying, and the merry sled-rides that brother Christian will give them
will make up for all the trouble. They will soon love the winter in
the snowy woods.
Their clothes, too, are all wearing out. Fritz comes to his mother
with great holes in his jacket-sleeves, and poor Christian's knees are
blue and frost-bitten through the torn trousers. What shall be done?
Louise brings out two old coats of her father's. Christian is wrapped
in one from head to foot, and Fritz looks like the oddest little man
with his great coat muffled around him, crossed in front and buttoned
around behind, while the long sleeves can be turned back almost to his
shoulders. Funny enough he looks, but it makes him quite warm; and in
this biting wind who would think of the looks? So our little friend
is to drive poor old Major to town with a sled-load of wood every day,
while his father and brother are cutting trees in the forest.
Should you laugh to see a boy so dressed coming up the street with a
load of wood? Perhaps you wouldn't if you knew how cold he would be
without this coat, and how much he hopes to get the half-dollar for
his wood, and bring home bread and meat for supper.
How wise the children grow in this hard work and hard life! Fritz
feels himself a little man, and Louise, I am sure, is as useful as
many a woman, for she is learning to cook and tend the fire, while
even Gretchen has some garters to knit, and takes quite good care of
Little Hans will never remember the great house by the Rhine; he was
too little when they came away; but by and by he will like to hear
stories about it, which, you may be sure, Louise will often tell her
The winter is the hardest time. When Christmas comes there is not even
a tree, for there are no candles to light one and no presents to give.
But there is one beautiful gift which they may and do all give to each
other,--it makes them happier than many toys or books,--it is love. It
makes even this cold dreary Christmas bright and beautiful to them.
Next winter will not be so hard, for in the spring corn will be
planted, and plenty of potatoes and turnips and cabbages; and they
will have enough to eat and something to sell for money.
But I must not stay to tell you more now of the backwoods life of
Louise and her brothers and sister. If you travel some day to the
West, perhaps you will see her yourself, gathering her nuts under the
trees, or sitting in the sun on the doorstep with her knitting. Then
you will know her for the little sister who has perhaps come
closest to your heart, and you will clasp each other's hands in true
THE SEVEN LITTLE SISTERS.
Here, dear children, are your seven little sisters. Let us count them
over. First came the brown baby, then Agoonack, Gemila, Jeannette,
Pen-se, Manenko, and Louise. Seven little sisters I have called them,
but Marnie exclaims: "How can they be sisters when some are black,
some brown, and some white; when one lives in the warm country and
another in the cold, and Louise upon the shores of the Rhine? Sallie
and I are sisters, because we have the same father and live here
together in the same house by the seaside; but as for those seven
children, I can't believe them to be sisters at all."
Now let us suppose, my dear little girl, that your sister Sallie
should go away,--far away in a ship across the ocean to the warm
countries, and the sun should burn her face and hands and make them
so brown that you would hardly know her,--wouldn't she still be your
And suppose even that she should stay away in the warm countries and
never come back again, wouldn't she still be your dear sister? and
wouldn't you write her letters and tell her about home and all that
you love there?
I know you would.
And now, just think if you yourself should take a great journey
through ice and snow and go to the cold countries, up among the white
bears and the sledges and dogs; suppose even that you should have an
odd little dress of white bear-skin, like Agoonack, wouldn't you think
it very strange if Sallie shouldn't call you her little sister just
because you were living up there among the ice?
And what if Minnie, too, should take it into her head to sail across
the seas and live in a boat on a Chinese river, like Pen-se, and drive
the ducks, eat rice with chopsticks, and have fried mice for dinner;
why, you might not want to dine with her, but she would be your sweet,
loving sister all the same, wouldn't she?
I can hear you say "Yes" to all this, but then you will add: "Father
is our father the same all the time, and he isn't Pen-se's father, nor
Let us see what makes you think he is your father. Because he loves
you so much and gives you everything that you have--clothes to wear,
and food to eat, and fire to warm you?
Did he give you this new little gingham frock? Shall we see what it
is made of? If you ravel out one end of the cloth, you can find the
little threads of cotton which are woven together to make your frock.
Where did the cotton come from?
It grew in the hot fields of the South, where the sun shines very
warmly. Your father didn't make it grow, neither did any man. It is
true a man, a poor black man, and a very sad man he was too, put the
little seeds into the ground, but they would never have grown if the
sun hadn't shone, the soft earth nourished, and the rain moistened
them. And who made the earth, and sent the sun and the rain?
That must be somebody very kind and thoughtful, to take so much care
of the little cotton-seeds. I think that must be a father.
Now, what did you have for breakfast this morning?
A sweet Indian cake with your egg and mug of milk? I thought so. Who
made this breakfast? Did Bridget make the cake in the kitchen? Yes,
she mixed the meal with milk and salt and sugar. But where did she get
the meal? The miller ground the yellow corn to make it. But who made
The seeds were planted as the cottonseeds were, and the same kind care
supplied sun and rain and earth for them. Wasn't that a father? Not
your father who sits at the head of the table and helps you at dinner,
who takes you to walk and tells you stories, but another Father; your
Father, too, he must be, for he is certainly taking care of you.
And doesn't he make the corn grow, also, on that ant-hill behind
Manenko's house? He seems to take the same care of her as of you.
Then the milk and the egg. They come from the hen and the cow; but who
made the hen and the cow?
It was the same kind Father again who made them for you, and made
the camels and goats for Gemila and Jeannette; who made also the wild
bees, and taught them to store their honey in the trees, for Manenko;
who made the white rice grow and ripen for little Pen-se, and the
sea-birds and the seals for Agoonack. To every one good food to
eat--and more than that; for must it not be a very loving father who
has made for us all the beautiful sky, and the stars at night, and the
blue sea; who sent the soft wind to rock the brown baby to sleep
and sing her a song, and the grand march of the Northern Lights for
Agoonack--grander and more beautiful than any of the fireworks you
know; the red strawberries for little Jeannette to gather, and the
beautiful chestnut woods on the mountain-side? Do you remember all
these things in the stories?
And wasn't it the same tender love that made the sparkling water and
sunshine for Pen-se, and the shining brown ducks for her too; the
springs in the desert and the palm-trees for Gemila, as well as the
warm sunshine for Manenko, and the beautiful River Rhine for Louise?
It must be a very dear father who gives his children not only all
they need for food and clothing, but so many, many beautiful things to
Don't you see that they must all be his children, and so all sisters,
and that he is your Father, too, who makes the mayflowers bloom, and
the violets cover the hills, and turns the white blossoms into black,
sweet berries in the autumn? It is your dear and kind Father who does
all this for his children. He has very many children; some of them
live in houses and some in tents, some in little huts and some under
the trees, in the warm countries and in the cold. And he loves them
all; they are his children, and they are brothers and sisters. Shall
they not love each other?
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