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Marjorie's Three Gifts, Page 2

Louisa May Alcott

the lady singing, like the princess inthe story of the Goose-Girl,--

  "Blow, breezes, blow! Let Curdkin's hat go! Blow, breezes, blow! Let him after it go! O'er hills, dales and rocks, Away be it whirled, Till the silvery locks Are all combed and curled."

  This made her laugh so that she tumbled into a clover-bed, and lay therea minute to get her breath. Just then, as if the playful windrepented of its frolic, the long veil fastened to the hat caught in ablackberry-vine near by, and held the truant fast till Marjorie securedit.

  "Now come and see what I am doing," said the lady, when she had thankedthe child.

  Marjorie drew near confidingly, and looked down at the wide-spread bookbefore her. She gave a start, and laughed out with surprise and delight;for there was a lovely picture of her own little home, and her ownlittle self on the door-step, all so delicate, and beautiful, and true,it seemed as if done by magic.

  "Oh, how pretty! There is Rover, and Kitty and the robins, and me! Howcould you ever do it, ma'am?" said Marjorie, with a wondering glanceat the long paint-brush, which had wrought what seemed a miracle to herchildish eyes.

  "I'll show you presently; but tell me, first, if it looks quite rightand natural to you. Children sometimes spy out faults that no one elsecan see," answered the lady, evidently pleased with the artless praiseher work received.

  "It looks just like our house, only more beautiful. Perhaps that isbecause I know how shabby it really is. That moss looks lovely on theshingles, but the roof leaks. The porch is broken, only the roses hidethe place; and my gown is all faded, though it once was as bright as youhave made it. I wish the house and everything would stay pretty forever,as they will in the picture."

  While Marjorie spoke, the lady had been adding more color to the sketch,and when she looked up, something warmer and brighter than sunshineshone in her face, as she said, so cheerily, it was like a bird's songto hear her,--

  "It can't be summer always, dear, but we can make fair weather forourselves if we try. The moss, the roses, and soft shadows show thelittle house and the little girl at their best, and that is what we allshould do; for it is amazing how lovely common things become, if oneonly knows how to look at them."

  "I wish _I_ did," said Marjorie, half to herself, remembering how oftenshe was discontented, and how hard it was to get on, sometimes.

  "So do I," said the lady, in her happy voice. "Just believe that thereis a sunny side to everything, and try to find it, and you will besurprised to see how bright the world will seem, and how cheerful youwill be able to keep your little self."

  "I guess granny has found that out, for she never frets. I do, but I'mgoing to stop it, because I'm twelve to-day, and that is too old forsuch things," said Marjorie, recollecting the good resolutions she hadmade that morning when she woke.

  "I am twice twelve, and not entirely cured yet; but I try, and don'tmean to wear blue spectacles if I can help it," answered the lady,laughing so blithely that Marjorie was sure she would not have to trymuch longer. "Birthdays were made for presents, and I should like togive you one. Would it please you to have this little picture?" sheadded, lifting it out of the book.

  "Truly my own? Oh, yes, indeed!" cried Marjorie, coloring with pleasure,for she had never owned so beautiful a thing before.

  "Then you shall have it, dear. Hang it where you can see it often, andwhen you look, remember that it is the sunny side of home, and help tokeep it so."

  Marjorie had nothing but a kiss to offer by way of thanks, as the lovelysketch was put into her hand; but the giver seemed quite satisfied, forit was a very grateful little kiss. Then the child took up her basketand went away, not dancing and singing now, but slowly and silently; forthis gift made her thoughtful as well as glad. As she climbed the wall,she looked back to nod good-by to the pretty lady; but the meadow wasempty, and all she saw was the grass blowing in the wind.

  "Now, deary, run out and play, for birthdays come but once a year,and we must make them as merry as we can," said granny, as she settledherself for her afternoon nap, when the Saturday cleaning was all done,and the little house as neat as wax.

  So Marjorie put on a white apron in honor of the occasion, and, takingKitty in her arms, went out to enjoy herself. Three swings on the gateseemed to be a good way of beginning the festivities; but she only gottwo, for when the gate creaked back the second time, it stayed shut, andMarjorie hung over the pickets, arrested by the sound of music.

  "It's soldiers," she said, as the fife and drum drew nearer, and flagswere seen waving over the barberry-bushes at the corner.

  "No; it's a picnic," she added in a moment; for she saw hats withwreaths about them bobbing up and down, as a gayly-trimmed hay-cart fullof children came rumbling down the lane.

  "What a nice time they are going to have!" thought Marjorie, sadlycontrasting that merry-making with the quiet party she was having all byherself.

  Suddenly her face shone, and Kitty was waved over her head like abanner, as she flew out of the gate, crying, rapturously,--

  "It's Billy! and I know he's come for me!"

  It certainly WAS Billy, proudly driving the old horse, and beaming athis little friend from the bower of flags and chestnut-boughs, where hesat in state, with a crown of daisies on his sailor-hat and a spray ofblooming sweetbrier in his hand. Waving his rustic sceptre, he led offthe shout of "Happy birthday, Marjorie!" which was set up as the wagonstopped at the gate, and the green boughs suddenly blossomed withfamiliar faces, all smiling on the little damsel, who stood in the lanequite overpowered with delight.

  "It's a s'prise party!" cried one small lad, tumbling out behind.

  "We are going up the mountain to have fun!" added a chorus of voices, asa dozen hands beckoned wildly.

  "We got it up on purpose for you, so tie your hat and come away," saida pretty girl, leaning down to kiss Marjorie, who had dropped Kitty, andstood ready for any splendid enterprise.

  A word to granny, and away went the happy child, sitting up besideBilly, under the flags that waved over a happier load than any royalchariot ever bore.

  It would be vain to try and tell all the plays and pleasures of happychildren on a Saturday afternoon, but we may briefly say that Marjoriefound a mossy stone all ready for her throne, and Billy crowned her witha garland like his own. That a fine banquet was spread, and eaten witha relish many a Lord Mayor's feast has lacked. Then how the whole courtdanced and played together afterward! The lords climbed trees and turnedsomersaults, the ladies gathered flowers and told secrets under thesweetfern-bushes, the queen lost her shoe jumping over the waterfall,and the king paddled into the pool below and rescued it. A happy littlekingdom, full of summer sunshine, innocent delights, and loyal hearts;for love ruled, and the only war that disturbed the peaceful land waswaged by the mosquitoes as night came on.

  Marjorie stood on her throne watching the sunset while her maids ofhonor packed up the remains of the banquet, and her knights preparedthe chariot. All the sky was gold and purple, all the world bathed in asoft, red light, and the little girl was very happy as she looked downat the subjects who had served her so faithfully that day.

  "Have you had a good time, Marjy?" asked King William; who stood below,with his royal nose on a level with her majesty's two dusty littleshoes.

  "Oh, Billy, it has been just splendid! But I don't see why you shouldall be so kind to me," answered Marjorie, with such a look of innocentwonder, that Billy laughed to see it.

  "Because you are so sweet and good, we can't help loving you,--that'swhy," he said, as if this simple fact was reason enough.

  "I'm going to be the best girl that ever was, and love everybody in theworld," cried the child, stretching out her arms as if ready, in thefulness of her happy heart, to embrace all creation.

  "Don't turn into an angel and fly away just yet, but come home, orgranny will never lend you to us any more."

  With that, Billy jumped her down, and away they ran, to ride gayly backthrough the twilight, singing like
a flock of nightingales.

  As she went to bed that night, Marjorie looked at the red bank, thepretty picture, and the daisy crown, saying to herself,--

  "It has been a VERY nice birthday, and I am something like the girl inthe story, after all, for the old man gave me a good-luck penny, thekind lady told me how to keep happy, and Billy came for me like theprince. The girl didn't go back to the poor house again, but I'm glad_I_ did, for MY granny isn't a cross one, and my little home is thedearest in the world."

  Then she tied her night-cap, said her prayers, and fell asleep; but themoon, looking in to kiss the blooming face upon the pillow, knew thatthree good spirits had come to help little Marjorie from that day forth,and their names were Industry,