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Marjorie's Three Gifts

Louisa May Alcott

  Produced by Brandon Ryan


  By Louisa M. Alcott

  Author of "Little Women," "Little Men," "An Old-Fashioned Girl," Etc.




  Marjorie sat on the door-step, shelling peas, quite unconscious whata pretty picture she made, with the roses peeping at her through thelattice work of the porch, the wind playing hide-and-seek in her curlyhair, while the sunshine with its silent magic changed her faded ginghamto a golden gown, and shimmered on the bright tin pan as if it were asilver shield. Old Rover lay at her feet, the white kitten purred on hershoulder, and friendly robins hopped about her in the grass, chirping "Ahappy birthday, Marjorie!"

  But the little maid neither saw nor heard, for her eyes were fixed onthe green pods, and her thoughts were far away. She was recalling thefairy-tale granny told her last night, and wishing with all her heartthat such things happened nowadays. For in this story, as a poor girllike herself sat spinning before the door, a Brownie came by, and gavethe child a good-luck penny; then a fairy passed, and left a talismanwhich would keep her always happy; and last of all, the prince rolledup in his chariot, and took her away to reign with him over a lovelykingdom, as a reward for her many kindnesses to others.

  When Marjorie imagined this part of the story, it was impossible to helpgiving one little sigh, and for a minute she forgot her work, so busywas she thinking what beautiful presents she would give to all the poorchildren in her realm when THEY had birthdays. Five impatient young peastook this opportunity to escape from the half-open pod in her hand andskip down the steps, to be immediately gobbled up by an audacious robin,who gave thanks in such a shrill chirp that Marjorie woke up, laughed,and fell to work again. She was just finishing, when a voice called outfrom the lane,--

  "Hi, there! come here a minute, child!" and looking up, she saw a littleold man in a queer little carriage drawn by a fat little pony.

  Running down to the gate, Marjorie dropped a curtsy, sayingpleasantly,--

  "What did you wish, sir?"

  "Just undo that check-rein for me. I am lame, and Jack wants to drinkat your brook," answered the old man, nodding at her till his spectaclesdanced on his nose.

  Marjorie was rather afraid of the fat pony, who tossed his head, whiskedhis tail, and stamped his feet as if he was of a peppery temper. But sheliked to be useful, and just then felt as if there were few things shecould NOT do if she tried, because it was her birthday. So she proudlylet down the rein, and when Jack went splashing into the brook, shestood on the bridge, waiting to check him up again after he had drunkhis fill of the clear, cool water.

  The old gentleman sat in his place, looking up at the little girl, whowas smiling to herself as she watched the blue dragon-flies dance amongthe ferns, a blackbird tilt on the alderboughs, and listened to thebabble of the brook.

  "How old are you, child?" asked the old man, as if he rather envied thisrosy creature her youth and health.

  "Twelve to-day, sir;" and Marjorie stood up straight and tall, as ifmindful of her years.

  "Had any presents?" asked the old man, peering up with an odd smile.

  "One, sir,--here it is;" and she pulled out of her pocket a tinsavings-bank in the shape of a desirable family mansion, painted red,with a green door and black chimney. Proudly displaying it on the ruderailing of the bridge, she added, with a happy face,--

  "Granny gave it to me, and all the money in it is going to be mine."

  "How much have you got?" asked the old gentleman, who appeared to liketo sit there in the middle of the brook, while Jack bathed his feet andleisurely gurgled and sneezed.

  "Not a penny yet, but I'm going to earn some," answered Marjorie,patting the little bank with an air of resolution pretty to see.

  "How will you do it?" continued the inquisitive old man.

  "Oh, I'm going to pick berries and dig dandelions, and weed, and drivecows, and do chores. It is vacation, and I can work all the time, andearn ever so much."

  "But vacation is play-time,--how about that?"

  "Why, that sort of work IS play, and I get bits of fun all along. Ialways have a good swing when I go for the cows, and pick flowers withthe dandelions. Weeding isn't so nice, but berrying is very pleasant,and we have good times all together."

  "What shall you do with your money when you get it?"

  "Oh, lots of things! Buy books and clothes for school, and, if I get agreat deal, give some to granny. I'd love to do that, for she takes careof me, and I'd be so proud to help her!"

  "Good little lass!" said the old gentleman, as he put his hand in hispocket. "Would you now?" he added, apparently addressing himself to alarge frog who sat upon a stone, looking so wise and grandfatherly thatit really did seem quite proper to consult him. At all events, he gavehis opinion in the most decided manner, for, with a loud croak, heturned an undignified somersault into the brook, splashing up thewater at a great rate. "Well, perhaps it wouldn't be best on the whole.Industry is a good teacher, and money cannot buy happiness, as I know tomy sorrow."

  The old gentleman still seemed to be talking to the frog, and as hespoke he took his hand out of his pocket with less in it than he had atfirst intended.

  "What a very queer person!" thought Marjorie, for she had not heard aword, and wondered what he was thinking about down there.

  Jack walked out of the brook just then, and she ran to check him up; notan easy task for little hands, as he preferred to nibble the grasson the bank. But she did it cleverly, smoothed the ruffled mane, and,dropping another curtsy, stood aside to let the little carriage pass.

  "Thank you, child--thank you. Here is something for your bank, and goodluck to it."

  As he spoke, the old man laid a bright gold dollar in her hand, pattedthe rosy cheek, and vanished in a cloud of dust, leaving Marjorie soastonished at the grandeur of the gift, that she stood looking at itas if it had been a fortune. It was to her; and visions of pink calicogowns, new grammars, and fresh hat-ribbons danced through her head indelightful confusion, as her eyes rested on the shining coin in herpalm.

  Then, with a solemn air, she invested her first money by popping it downthe chimney of the scarlet mansion, and peeping in with one eye to seeif it landed safely on the ground-floor. This done, she took a longbreath, and looked over the railing, to be sure it was not all a dream.No; the wheel marks were still there, the brown water was not yet clear,and, if a witness was needed, there sat the big frog again, looking solike the old gentleman, with his bottle-green coat, speckled trousers,and twinkling eyes, that Marjorie burst out laughing, and clapped herhands, saying aloud,--

  "I'll play he was the Brownie, and this is the good-luck penny he gaveme. Oh, what fun!" and away she skipped, rattling the dear new bank likea castanet.

  When she had told granny all about it, she got knife and basket, andwent out to dig dandelions; for the desire to increase her fortune wasso strong, she could not rest a minute. Up and down she went, so busilypeering and digging, that she never lifted up her eyes till somethinglike a great white bird skimmed by so low she could not help seeingit. A pleasant laugh sounded behind her as she started up, and, lookinground, she nearly sat down again in sheer surprise, for there close bywas a slender little lady, comfortably established under a big umbrella.

  "If there WERE any fairies, I'd be sure that was one," thought Marjorie,staring with all her might, for her mind was still full of the oldstory; and curious things do happen on birthdays, as every one knows.

  It really did seem rather elfish to look up suddenly and see a lovelylady all in white, with shining hair and a wand in her hand, sittingunder what looked very like a large yellow mushroom in the middle ofa meadow, where, till
now, nothing but cows and grasshoppers had beenseen. Before Marjorie could decide the question, the pleasant laugh cameagain, and the stranger said, pointing to the white thing that was stillfluttering over the grass like a little cloud,--

  "Would you kindly catch my hat for me, before it blows quite away?"

  Down went basket and knife, and away ran Marjorie, entirely satisfiednow that there was no magic about the new-comer; for if she had been anelf, couldn't she have got her hat without any help from a mortal child?Presently, however, it did begin to seem as if that hat was bewitched,for it led the nimble-footed Marjorie such a chase that the cows stoppedfeeding to look on in placid wonder; the grasshoppers vainly tried tokeep up, and every ox-eye daisy did its best to catch the runaway, butfailed entirely, for the wind liked a game of romps, and had it thatday. As she ran, Marjorie heard