ROBBY AND NELLIE AT SCHOOL
[frontispiece apparently missing from this copy]
ROBBY AND NELLIE
BY MRS. E. M. BRUCE
CHARLES CAVERLY, AGENT
16 BROMFIELD STREET
As deep ploughing makes the garden-soil rich and productuctive, so adversity and brave endeavor work together for good in human lives.
The hero and heroine of this story are not exceptions to the rule; and all who are interested in following them through their school experience, will learn how, in getting and giving, their days in blessing grew.
ROBBY AND NELLIE AT SCHOOL
ROBBY and Nellie were very happy in their school life, and yet they learned the lesson which we all must learn, that no life, however fortunate, is wholly free from care.
One day, not very long after the strawberries were harvested [from the previous volume] and the children were changed from farmers to students, Robby said to Nellie, as they were finishing their evening work:
"Shouldn't you like it, Nellie, if we could stay in town nights, instead of coming and going this long way to school?"
"Why, no Robby," Nellie replied; "I can't think of anything that I should like less."
"What! than being in the town instead of in the country, in the long dreary winter nights that we shall be having soon?"
"I should not object to the pleasures of the town. I think I should enjoy those as much as you would, if our way was all clear to let us enjoy them fairly. But think Robby, how lonely father and mother would be if we were away from them all of the nights, as well as all of the days. I don't think we should either of us enjoy a pleasure much that we had to desert father and mother to get."
"Who's talked of deserting father and mother? I don't think that I have."
"I am sure I understood you so. How could we be in the town, and they in the cottage, without our having deserted them?"
"Couldn't we rent a small tenement, and take them into town for the winter?"
"I don't see the way at all clear to that. In the first place, mother doesn't like the town as well as she does the country, and we should make her unhappy by the change. And in the next place, we haven't money enough to support a house in the town."
"What! wouldn't ten dollars a week pay the rent of a small tenement, and furnish the food for father and mother, when we take all our dinners at Mr. Brown's?"
Why no, Robby, I don't think it would do that. And you forget that there are a great many other things required for the support of two invalids, besides shelter and food."
"What do you mean, Nellie?"
"I mean clothing and medicine, and all the little luxuries that sick people need. There has got to be a good deal of money used pretty soon to buy flannels, and make our invalids ready for the winter; more money than we have, or know how to get."
"Don't you think Mr. Brown would be willing to give us a few dollars more, if he knew that we needed it."
"I suppose he would give the winter flannels without any hesitation, if he knew we needed them, for he seems to have plenty of money. But, Robby, I think we ought to be ashamed to ask him for more than he is already giving us."
"What can we do, then?"
"You and I can earn the money to make our family confortable for the winter. We are not going to lose our independence, and break down into pauperism, because Mr. and Mrs. Brown have been kind enough to undertake our education."
"But how can we work, when we are going to school?"
"We are not in school the whole twenty-four hours of the day."
"But we have to sleep a part of the twenty-four hours."
"Yes; we need eight hours of sleep, but when you have added to that the five hours of shcool, you have then eleven hours of the twenty-four left."
"It takes some time to ocme and go to school."
"A little time. But with Mr. Brown's swift horses, I think we need not count out very much of the day as lots in our comings and goings."
"I know that, Nellie. But you understand as well as I, that the few hours we are able to control in the day are broken hours. There will be no whole time, except the evening, and how can we go out to work after dark."
"You thought at the beginning of our summer's work that we couldn't possibly earn enough to support father and mother, but you say how well we got along when we really put our shoulders to the wheel in good earnest."
"Yes, I know we did; but that was in summer; but you cannot say that we are not better prepared to meet trouble than we were then. We have some experience with life, and know better what we can and what we cannot do, than we did when we first undertook to support a family."
"Yes, that is true; but experience will not conquer all difficulties."
"Experience will help, and hard work may do the rest."
"But you have not answered my question, what we are to do in such little piecemeals of time as will be left to us each day, or rather each night, for we shall have no time until the evening."
"I cannot answer that question, Robby, until I have tried for work. We can only tell by trying what we can get to do."
"But how can we go out to do any thing in the night?"
"It doesn't seem to occur to you that there are some kinds of work that we can bring in."
"What, for instance?"
"Wait till we see what."
"Well, how are you going to begin to see?"
"I am going to-morrow, after school, to Mr. Dixon's shoe-factory, to inquire if I can not have shoes to bind in the winter evenings."
"But you never bound a shoe in your life, and you will not know how to do it."
"There is a first time for every thing, and you know every body has had to learn that has tried to bind shoes."
"Did you ever hear of any one being allowed to take their work home from that factory? We have seen great numbers of girls going in there to work, but I never remember to have seen any coming out with work in their hands."
"I don't know that I have seen workers bringing work from there, but I suppose there can be a first time for that as for every thing else. I shall tell Mr. Dixon how we are situated, and perhaps he will make an exception in my case."
"And you aer not going to tell Mr. and Mrs. Brown any thing about it until you get the work."
"No; I am not going to tell them before I get it, or afterward. I am quite sure that what I am doing is not worthy of their disapproval, but they might feel badly to have me work hard out of school hours, after I had worked hard during the school-day. So I have made up my mind not to disturb them by letting them into my secret at all."
"They will be almost sure to find it out, sooner or later."
"I cannot help it, if they do. I am sure they could not, and would not, blame me for trying my best to keep my father and mother from suffering."
"You are a brave girl, Nellie. Of course, if you try to work, I shall try, too. But what am I to do? Boys can't bind shoes. It seems as if girls could do a great many more things than boys."
"It depends more on willingness, Robby, than on the accidental circumstance of being a boy or girl. If you wish to be helpful, you will find a way. Girls don't usually work out in gardens, or drive donkeys, or sell strawberries in the market; but I have done all of these things this summer, and am not a bit the worse for it."
"Well, haven't I worked, too, Nellie, ever since we began?"
"Yes, Robby, you have worked nobly. I have no fault to find with you; and I feel quite sure that, after your summer's experience, you will take hold of the winter's work the more bravery; for I heard mother say one day, that every step on life's journey, if it is taken well, makes the next step easier."
"What do you think I can get to do? I am bound to do something. I am not going to let you bear all the burden."
"We shall see, Robby, what we can find. By diligent search we shall get something, you may be sure. The Lord helps those that help themselves. My trust in Him gets stronger all of the time. That is one of the good things about being poor, it makes us understand how the Lord helps us."
"Had I better begin to-morrow, when you begin, and go with you to the shoe-factory in search of work?"
"I think, Robby, it would be better for me to go by myself at first. As you do not know just what you wish to ask for after you get there, we should be more likely to be disappointed than if one went alone who knows just what inquiry to make. Let me get into their good graces first, and afterward it will be easier to ask them to let my brother have work."
"Let me go first, Nellie."
"I do not think it would be as well, and you will think so too, after you have turned it over in your mind. An unknown boy going to a place and asking for an unknown something to do, will not be as likely to have his request attended to as a girl whose thought is entirely definite as to what she wishes."
"That's true, Nellie; and you always could make your way anywhere better than I could."
"I don't know about that, Robby. If I can, it isn't because I am any better than you."
"I am sure it is, Nellie. What else can it be?"
"I suppose it is because little girls are usually more sheltered from hardship than boys; and so, when one gets pushed out by hard circumstance, as I have been, people take pity on them, and are kinder to them than they would be to a boy in exactly the same place. I am sure it will be better for me to go to the factory first. Let us try it and see."
Mr. Brown's coach-man drove to the door of the school-house, at four o'clock on the afternoon following this conversation, to take the children home from school, Nellie said to him:
"You and Robby will have the ride to yourselves this afternoon, as I have an errand to do in the town, and shall not be ready to go for an hour or more."
"And sure I'll be waiting for you. till you've done your errand," said the obliging Patrick.
"Oh, no," Nellie replied, quickly, fearing that her secret would be betrayed by Patrick's desire to serve her. "I cannot tell just when I shall be ready to go, and when I am ready I shall not mind the walk at all."
Patrick urged strongly to be allowed to stay for her, but Nellie persisted that she would not have the carriage that nighty and at last he drove unwillingly away.
A half-hour later, Nellie was in the counting-room at the shoe-factory, talking very earnestly with Mr. Dixon.
"We are driven just now with work," Mr. Dixon was saying, "and I would very willingly hire you if you could come into the factory as the other girls come, and stay the usual number of hours; but I have very little faith that you could help us by taking your work home."
"Why not? " said Nellie. " I could be just as industrious and faithful there as here."
"I don't doubt you could, but the question is, whether you would. I have tried putting out work, and I haven't found that it succeeds, especially with young girls. They have so many other projects in their heads that they are not likely to keep at serious work very long, unless there is somebody to watch them."
"I have been tried, Mr. Dixon," said Nellie, with a little pride in her voice. "My brother, two years older than I am, and myself have supported our father and mother and ourselves, for six months past, and we feel quite sure that we shall be able to get somebody to trust us with work, if you are not willing to do so."
"If you have a brother, why cannot you both come at once to the factory, and I will set you to work to-morrow, and give you both good wages? "
"We have a sick mother and a paralytic father at home, and they need our care all of the hours that we are out of school."
"Ah! you are in school, then, through the day, are you? When, then, do you expect to do the work? "
"I must do it in the winter evenings, sir; they are long, and I hope to earn a good deal by using all the hours well through the winter.'"
"It seems to me that you children are rather driving business, to expect to be able to keep in. school, and support two invalids in the hours of the day that are left after your school is over."'
"We do not have to earn all of their support now; Mr. and Mrs. Luellen Brown are helping us, and we shall get along very well if we can get some work for the winter evenings."
At mention of Mr. Brown's name, Mr. Dixon's manner changed, and he said:
"If Mr. Brown is helping you, I wonder that you do not have an abundance, without coming to me for work. Mr. Brown is a man that doesn't often do things by halves.'"
"I have no doubt that he would give us more if we were to ask him; but, sir, we do not wish to be beggars. We take, very gratefully, what Mr. and Mrs. Brown give us, but we do not wish them to think that we are taking advantage of their kindness to crowd them with entreaties for more."
"A very good spirit! Really quite a treat to find two children made of that kind of stuff in this age of bountiful beggary. I think I will try you by giving you some work to do. Have you ever bound shoes?"
"No, sir, but mother says that I am a very neat sewer, and I think I can do the work well."
"If you have never tried shoe-binding, I would rather you should come to the factory one day, that you may be shown how to do the work; and, after a little instruction, I make no doubt you will get on well enough. You have Saturdays out of school, don't you? "
"Then come next Saturday, and we will start you right; and after that you can take the work home."
"Oh, thank you, sir," said Nellie.
"I will be on hand promptly next Saturday morning, and you shall see how hard I will try to be worthy of your kindness."
The way home did not seem tedious to Nellie that night. She tripped along as if there were springs in her shoes. When the heart is light, it lifts the feet easily over even the roughest and longest pathways.
Bobby had hurried to finish doing the evening work, that he might go out to meet Nellie, for he was as much interested as she in the result of her mission.
When he learned how she had succeeded, he was more than ever determined to get something to do himself. All of the next week he tried faithfully, going from one place to another in the town, and asking for work. But he found it not easy to succeed in getting any thing that he could take home for winter evening work. Nellie, meanwhile, had served her apprenticeship at the factory, and learned her trade, and was working industriously at it by the home fireside.
One night, after one of his unsuccessful searches for work, Robby came home, quite discouraged, he sat down and watched Nellie's busy fingers, as they flew nimbly up and down, while the pile of bound shoes beside her slowly grew higher. At length he broke silence by saying:
"Why can't I learn to do that, Nellie? "
"Why, binding shoes."
"I don't know but you could in time, for perseverance will conquer almost any difficulty. But I don't think you can learn it in a day, for you do not even know how to sew on thin cloth; and sewing on leather I find much harder."
"If a girl can do it, I don't see why a boy can't."
"You are right there, Robby. There is no reason why you should not bind shoes as well as a girl, if you are willing to try to learn."
"Will you teach me, Nellie? "
"Certainly; if you are really in earnest in wishing to know how."
"Of course I am in earnest, or I shouldn't have asked you."
"Very well; when will you take your first lesson?"
"I will take it now, and here. Give me a needle, and hand over one of those shoes, and I am ready to begin."
"Oh, you. can't begin to learn to sew on shoes, and especially on work that belongs to other people."
"What, then, can I do?"
"I will let you try hemming on the towels that I bought yesterday."
"Well, bring 'em on as quick as you can; I am just in a mood for work."
"But you haven't a thimble. What will you do about that? "
"Can't you lend me yours? "
"Why, no; of course I can't lend mine. That would stop my work; and it would hardly pay, when I am earning wages, to lend my thimble and sit idle while you are experimenting."
"I can borrow mother's."
"Yes; that you can do, if she is willing to lend to you."
Robby ran away to his mother's room, and came back presently with the thimble. He was laughing when he came in, and said:
"Nellie, mother says she shall be at a loss to know soon which is boy and which girl in this house, as the girl does boy's work in the summer, and the boy is going to do girl's work in the winter."
"Never mind, Bobby, so that we get the work accomplished; it matters little who docs it."
"That wasn't all that mother said, " either."
"Well, let us have the rest of it."
"She says that if I drive my needle with as much vigor as I did. the donkey, last Summer, I will make my fortune pretty soon at plain sewing."
"I think you will have to drive your needle a little steadier than you did the donkey, or you. will come to grief now, as you did then."
"I have steadied down in a good many ways since last summer, Nellie. There's nothing like hard experience to take the kinks out of a boy."
"That's a fact, Robby. The lessons we have learned this last year have been hard ones, some of them, but they have been good for us both. I think the hard rubs in this world are good for the people that take them patiently."
"Well, don't stop now to preach a sermon, Nellie; I would a good deal rather have a lesson in sewing."
"Very well. Here is your needle and thread. You may thread your needle, and then I will show you how to begin to hem."
Bobby seized the needle, eagerly, and, holding it up to the lamp, he began a series of darting motions, which were really very laughable to witness but Nellie was determined not to discourage him by making fun of his performance in the beginning. At last he 'broke silence with an exclamation of impatience.
"I don't see why they can't make the eye of a needle a little bigger. How do you ever expect a fellow to shoot a thread through that little hole?"
"Practice will make you perfect in that, as in every thing else. Let me take your needle; I will show you how easily I can thread it."
After this was done, Nellie watched Bobby carefully while he went through with his first experience in taking stitches. He was very awkward at first, and put the needle into his finger quite as often as into the cloth; at which he cried out and said:
"I might as well be murdered and done with it." To which Nellie replied:
"I never heard of any one committing suicide with a cambric needle. If you are going to do that, it will be a new invention under the sun."
Robby was not to be shaken from his resolution by difficulties, and, before ten o'clock that night, he had acquired skill enough to sew quite respectably.
In a week's time he became skilful enough to be trusted with the shoes, and to make very good progress with them, though he still sewed the skin of his forefinger almost as much as he did the leather of the shoe.
THE lessons in sewing went on and ' the children were very happy with the amount of work that they were able to accomplish.
The month after these lessons be- gan, when Robby went to Mr. Brown's counting-room, after the usual weekly payment of ten dollars, Mr. Brown said to him:
"Come, Robby, and sit down here by me. I am going to have you write the receipt this time. I must begin to teach you business habits."'
Robby sat down at the desk very willingly, saying as he did so:
"I wish I were through with school, so that I could come and be your book-keeper, and sit at this desk every day."
"Ah! you don't like school, then?"
"Oh yes, sir; I like school very much. But it would be very nice to be with you all of the days; and then I should like to be a man, and do man's work."
"Yes, I see. It is the old story of the man getting his growth in the boy's mind, before he gets it in his body. But, my boy, you musn't be in a hurry. You need a man's body to do a man's work, and the time will come full soon enough, for you to take a man's anxieties."
"I don't mind anxiety much," said Robby.
"You haven't had enough of it yet, my boy, to know whether you do or not."
"Of course I haven't had as much as some grown people have had; but Nellie and I have had our little share, in the last year."
"True! true! my boy; I was overlooking the fact that you children have been doing the duty of grown folks lately. But you will find yet greater cares when you get farther on in the life struggle. I think I could have easier driven your donkey last summer, and managed tricky Tim, than to have had the care of this establishment."
"I don't doubt you could, Mr. Brown. But tricky Tim and the. donkey were a good deal for children like Nellie and I; and then we had the care, beside, of the house, and the two invalids in it."
"That's so. I am a good deal better able at fifty to carry this burden than you and Nellie at sixteen and thirteen."
"I am not sixteen yet, Mr. Brown. Nellie was thirteen last month, and I am but two years older."
"Yes, I see. You have behaved so much like a little man and woman that you may easily be mistaken for ten years older than you are. But now we must attend to business. Here is the pen, and I will see how nicely you will write the receipt."
Robby took the pen, and laying his left hand on the paper, began to write.
Mr. Brown was watching him carefully, and said, with surprise:
"Why, Robby, what is the matter with your finger? "
When this question was asked, the hot blood flew into Bobby's face, and he drew his hand away instantly from the paper, and hid it under the table.
This flush of shame was but for an instant. The noble side of his nature came again uppermost, and he replaced the hand on the table with a smile, and said:
"My finger has been pricked with a needle, sir."
"Pricked with a needle! " said Mr. Brown, in astonishment; "why Robby, how is that? You haven't turned girl, and gone out to plain-sewing, have you?'"
"No, sir; I have not turned girl, and have not gone out to plain-sewing. But the plain-sewing has come in to Nellie, and I have been helping her with it, as she helped me with the garden last summer."
"Well, upon my word, you are two of the most extraordinary children that I ever knew. What time have yon had for sewing, I would like to know ? "
"We have had our work-evenings sir, after our school-duties and home-duties were done. Both father and mother needed flannels, and Nellie said that we could earn them in this way, and we have, sir, much to our delight."
"Yes; and much to your credit, too. Why didn't you tell me that you needed more money? "
"We felt that it would be better for us to earn it. You were already doing so much for us, that we should have been quite ashamed to ask for more."
"Ah," said Mr. Brown, with tears in his eyes as he spoke, "you are brave children, very brave children. Mrs. Brown must know of this."
He took Robby's hand tenderly in his, and examined the hurt finger, saying:
"The many wounds won in battle are not more honorable than these, and yet these quiet heroes in the world's strife pass unnoticed, while others wear the crowns."
"Nellie and I are quite content to go without crowns," said Robby, " if we can get the comforts of life for father and mother."
"I think we will see hereafter that your father and mother do not suffer for clothing. You are to ask me, Robby, when there is need of any thing at your house. Will you remember that?"
"Yes,—sir," said Robby; but the words came out of his mouth very slowly, and Mr. Brown said:
"You speak hesitatingly, as if you were unwilling, to this proposal. Is it so, Robby?"
"I am very grateful for your kindness, Mr. Brown; but I am afraid that Nellie will blame me for letting you know."
"For letting me know what? That your father and mother are in comfortable flannels for the winter? "
"No, sir; for letting you know that we have been taking work to supply the need in our household, and that you are going to take an additional burden for our sake. I wanted to ask you for the flannels a month ago, when she first set out to look for work. But Nellie would not let me do it. She said we were not to turn paupers and beg because you had been kind enough to undertake our education."
"What a spirit that girl has. I think we will manage her in a quiet way. I am sure you will neither of you be the worse if Mrs. Brown and I should give you what is, needed for your family without your asking for it. And a boy and girl of your ages can certainly manage to play instead of work in your evenings, after you have been studying hard all day, without feeling it much of a hardship."
"Thank you, sir," said Bobby; "if we can manage not to let Nellie know that I have told you that we are binding shoes, I should like it very much. I love play as well as another boy, and if Nellie will let the work alone, I am sure I shall be glad to coast and skate these winter evenings, instead of being shut up in the house."
"We'll manage that, my boy. You just come and tell me whenever any thing is needed at your house, and I will see that it is supplied; and then Nellie will have no excuse for taking work, and I guess the shoe-binding will drop off without our troubling ourselves farther about it."
Robby thanked Mr. Brown again, but did not make the promise to tell their home needs, for he saw at a glance that Nellie would soon find out who was the tale-bearer, if the exact things needed in the family came, as soon as she had mentioned that they were wanted.
He took his leave, and Mr, Brown sat at his desk quite puzzled to know how he was to manage these two peculiar children.
When he went home to his dinner that day, he took counsel with Mrs. Brown about the case.
"What do you think Robby and Nellie have been doing?" he asked, as he took his seat at table.
"I'm sure I don't know; I hope nothing very bad."
"No, indeed; I don't expect very bad things of those children. But they are a puzzle to me. I'm sure I don't know how to manage them."
"Well, pray tell me what they have been doing, and I shall know better then how to give advice."
"They have been taking shoes from the factory to bind, evenings, in order to get money to buy the flannels to keep their father and mother com- fortable for the winter."
"Why, that is very strange. When have they found time for binding shoes, with all their days spent in school? "
"They have been at work evenings."
"How did you find it out? "
"Robby came to the counting-room to-day with his forefinger as marked up with needle-pricks as any woman who earns her living by daily sewing."
"Well! well! " said Mrs. Brown, "I admire the spirit, I declare,"— but her voice was quite choked with tears as she spoke.
"What can we do about it, wife? I tried to make Robby promise to tell me in future when they needed any thing, that the money might be furnished without their earning it; but he was not willing to promise, for fear that Nellie would blame him. She says they are not to turn beggars because we are kind to them."
"There's where the girl is right. We must respect that spirit in her. It would be doing these children a great wrong to take away from them the natural independence that belongs in every one who is well, and able to take care of themselves."
"But children are an exception, wife. God intended that the human being should be cared for, until the tender years of youth are past."
"Yes; but these children show such a remarkable faculty for bearing responsibility, that we cannot treat them just as we would more helpless children. We must try, without wound- ing that feeling of independence that I admire so much in them, to anticipate their wants, so that they will not be overworked. I will be more careful in future in looking after them, — will go oftener to the house, talk with Mrs. Quinby more, and supply, in a quiet way, all the need of which I can possibly come to the knowledge."
MRS. BROWN became a frequent visitor at the Quinby house; but as she usually went when the children were at school, they did not always know of her visits.
She did not make impudent inquiries about the occupations, or needs of the household, but she found a great many ways of supplying things that were lacking in the house, without making any words about her gifts.
Robby, too, was playing his part deftly. A few weeks after his conversation with Mr. Brown, he said to Nellie, one day, after they came from school: "Don't let's take any more work from the factory at present. We have got father and mother well clothed up for the winter, and it seems to me we can afford to rest a little."
"I had it in my mind this very morning," said Nellie, "to tell you that I thought you needed a vacation from work. You have been very faithful since yon. began, and I know boys don't like sewing quite as well as girls do, so I have felt to praise you very much for keeping on so steadily, and with so little complaining. It has been harder, too, for you to stay in the house evenings, at this time of the year, when all the other boys have been out coasting and skating."
"Oh, I haven't minded it a great deal. I liked it when it was necessary. I can stand any kind of hardship when it is helping the people I love. But I don't see any need of our making ourselves miserable when it isn't necessary."
"Very well, then, we will consider that you are out of the work harness from this time."
"And you will rest, too, ?"
"Oh, no, I don't need rest. I don't care for coasting and skating, you know, and I might as well be at work when I am out of school."
"But we don't need the money, ; so what do you want to keep delving away for? You know I shan't be nearly as happy if I am out at play and feel that you are home at work."
"You ought to be happy to have me doing what it makes me happiest to be doing. I have a little project in my head, the carrying out of which will make a little money very necessary."
"What are you up to now? You are not going to buy a farm, are you, ?"
"No, I am not seeking for any earthly possession. But I thought I would try laying up a little treasure in heaven."
"What, lay up treasure in heaven, binding shoes? That's a new way."
"I don't know that the shoes have any thing to do with it, particularly, only as they are to be the means of my getting money by which I am to lay up my treasures."
"But how are you to get your treasure up there? Pray do explain yourself?"
"I am going to try lending a little to the Lord."
"Well, now you are only confusing me more. How are you going to lend to the Lord?"
"By giving to the poor, Robby. We are taught in the Bible, that 'he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord,' and I have felt for a long time as if I wanted to try it."
"But we are poor ourselves, Nellie. It seems comical to think of your planning gifts for the poor, as if you were a millionaire."
"Why, no, Robby; one doesn't need ot be a millionaire, to be able to give to others. The blessing will come according ot our willingness, and not according to the amount we give. You haven't forgotten the poor widow's mite, have you?"
"No. But you are not a poor widow, and you haven't any mite, until you have worked and earned it in time that you ought to be playing. I guess if that widow had been a child no older than you and I, she would have felt it rather hard to earn the mite binding shoes, that she gave away."
"Why, you're a curious boy, Robby. I don't think it makes much difference where the mite came from that the widow gave, so that it was an honest mite, and she gave it willingly."
"Well, never mind, we won't stop to discuss the widow's mite. I am much more interested to know what you are going to do with yours."
"Why, it's coming Christmas before long."
"Yes, it comes Christmas every year, when the time for it comes round. But what has that to do with binding shoes, and the widow Quinby's mite?"
"It has this to do with it. I have seen some very poor children in Baker's Alley, as I have been going to and from the factory. And they seemed so friendless and forlorn, that I have thought it would be very nice if I could get a few things together at Christmas time, and give them a Christmas-tree."
"Oh, that would be splendid, . How came you to ever think of it?"
"I told you, Robby, I thought of it when I saw the poor little creatures so neglected, and dirty, and forlorn. Their very looks put the thought right into my mind."
"They didn't ask you, then, to give them a Christmas-tree?"
"Why no, you absurd boy, what do you think they know about Christmas-trees? I don't suppose they have any of them ever seen one in their lives."
"Well, as they have never seen one, and are not expecting it at all, they would not be disappointed if that happiness never came to them. But if you give all the time between now and Christmas to working hard, and if I should give all the plans up that I have made for sport, to help you with the work, you see that we should be having some hardship, in the losing of what we expect, and the gain would not equal the loss."
"You are not to lose any thing, Robby. I will not permit you to help me at all about this work, sinc eyou need and wish for the play. As for me, I wish to give this Christmas pleasre to these children so much, that the work will seem no hardship to me. I shall enjoy doing it a great deal more than I should sitting idle these winter evenings, and feeling that the hours were of no use to any one."
"Don't say that you will not permit me to help at all, for that would be very hard, if I really wish to help. I like the idea of that Christmas-tree immensely, and it seems to me that it would be splendid fun to see those little chaps made really happy one day of the year. But I do want to skate so, that you won't think hard of me if I should take a few nights out with the boys before I begin work again, will you?"
"No, indeed, Robby. I told you that I knew you needed the play. You must have it, whether Baker's Alley has any Christmas or not. You have earned your rest, and ought to have it. So don't let any of my plans keep you from taking it."
"You're just as good as you can be, . I'll just go out to-night with the boys, and we shall see how I shall feel to-morrow night."
"That's right, Robby. Go, and have just as good a time as you can. These moonlight evenings are splendid for outdoor sports, and I heard Nathan Ormbsy say, this afternoon, that the pond was never in better condition for skating than now. I wish you had a new pair of skates; those old ones are not good for much, are they?"
"No, they are not. But I must make the best of them. I guess that I shall be so glad to get out and play like a boy again, that I shan't complain if everything is not exactly to my mind."
"Then, you don't like being housed up, and playing that you are a girl, by doing girl's work?"
"Well, no, . If I tell the honest truth, I don't like it. I suppose if the Lord had meant that I should like girl's work, he would have made a girl of me."
"Quite true," said , laughing. ["]Go and have a good time with the boys, and forget that there were ever hours when you tried to do girl's work."
Robby was delighted with 's willingness to his decision, for he really loved her; and much as he loved play, and wanted that evening out with the boys, it would have been very hard for him to have felt happy, if he had thought that she was blaming him for taking the pleasure. He went to the garret, and brought down the old skates, oiled them, and fixed the worn straps as well as he could. His experience in binding shoes helped him in mending the straps and said:
"There, Robby, you see that your knowledge of girl's work comes in very handy now. If you had never learned to sew, you could not have put those skates in order, as you have done."
"But I should have asked you to do it for me," said Robby, "and you would have done it, I know."
"How can you be so certain," said , looking up mischievously.
"Because girls always do wait on boys, when boys wish them to," Robby replied saucily. But he kissed when he said it, and his eyes were so full of love, that she knew the words were playfully said, if they did have a little shadow under their sunny exterior. So her kind heart kept saying: "Well, 'tis no hardship for girls to work for boys, when boys really love them, and are kind to them in return["]; and as Robby ran away out of the door with a happy bound, she blessed him with her whole loving heart and wished him the pleasantest possible evening with the merry skaters. She went back to her sewing, feeling very happy about Robby, and said to herself: "Now, I will surely buy Robby a pair of new skates with the money I earn, before I use one bit of it for the Christmas-tree. There's no child in Baker's Alley that needs my kindness more than this dear brother that God gave me to love and cherish. He has been very good to work so hard this winter, and I will let him know that I appreciate his goodness, by making him happy in every way possible to me."
While was thinking these happy thoughts aloud, and making more resoultuions in her heart than any words could ever have given voice to, she heard a rap at the door, and going to answer it, found Mr. Brown's errand-boy there with a bundle, which he had been sent to deliver.
She opened it eagerly, and out dropped two pair of new skates, one pair for her, and one for Robby, as the pretty note enclosed from Mr. Brown stated.
On to chapters 5-8