By Sallie Chester
American Tract Society,
150 Nassau Street, New York
Poor little Marnie Pierce, for the first time in her life, was busy making Christmas presents.
The leaves which Lizzie and Gracie had gathered for her on that happy day they spent together at Aunt Elizabeth's had been pressed in a big book, and now some of them were lying around on the white cover of Marnie's little bed. She was sitting up in the pillows, and there was the least bit of color in her cheeks to-day, for she was very happy and excited.
Her thin fingers, of which there was almost nothing at all but tiny bones covered with skin, were picking up leaves and pasting them on a piece of cardboard. Marnie was making a Christmas wreath. She had finished nine already, and they were laid away in a drawer waiting for Christmas. There were to be ten in all -- one for each of the Swallows, one for Aunt Elizabeth, and one for Aunt Kate.
As her tired little fingers worked on this last wreath, Marnie wished very much that it was finished and lying away in the drawer with the others; for though she loved to do it, she had been getting so weak lately that she was afraid she might not be able to finish it for Christmas.
After resting a moment, she pushed herself up a little higher and straighter on the pillows, and began again. It was great fun to be making presents for people who had given her so many -- much better fun than expecting her own presents. No wonder that she smiled often, and that the color in her cheeks kept growing brighter.
There was not a quarter of this last wreath finished when Marnie's fingers dropped down on the cover, and she realized how very, very tired she was -- quite too tired to paste one more leaf on the cardboard. She put all the leaves away in the big book, slid down in the pillow, and closed her eyes.
Marnie was very sick, although she did not know it. She only knew that she was much changed within a day or two. She had never been so weak before. But within the last few days she had often closed her mouth and tried to stop breathing long enough to get rested. The breathing used to take care of itself without her thinking of it at all, and now it seemed as if she had to help every breath that came.
She had grown very tired of it, and as she closed her eyes she began to wonder how much longer it would last; whether she would be like her old self on Christmas day, strong enough to enjoy giving and receiving presents as much as she had expected.
She beat a little tune on the pillow with her fingers, for she was too restless to fall asleep. She wasn't thinking of any tune in particular, but her fingers took up an air that the little Swallows were fond of singing, and sang very often to Marnie.
They beat it over and over, this one little air, and Marnie couldn't think what the words were that belonged to it. She was very much troubled about those words. She would almost get them, it would seem as if they were right on the end of her tongue, and then they would fly away in a second, and leave her beating a tune without any words to go with it.
"If I only could think! O dear!" said Marnie, turning over in the pillows and folding her hands under her head.
She felt like a disappointed little baby that could not bear being crossed. The color in Marnie's cheeks was getting brighter all the while, and it hurt her so to breathe that she could have cried.
Marnie tried to forget the provoking words that wouldn't come and be set to their tune. She tried to forget the tune, too, and think about Christmas day; but in a few minutes the hands had slipped out from under her head, and one of them was beating the little air over on the pillow, over and over and over.
"Oh, why can't I think of the words?" said Marnie, almost sobbing, for her sickness made her very babyish. "I do which I could get 'em to come."
Over and over the little fingers beat those few notes; and by-and-by a word caught up with one of the notes and trotted along by its side; and then two words more fell in step with two notes more, until every note had its own word accompanying it, and Marnie was laughing with delight.
"There it is! I've got it!" she said, putting down each word with each finger on the pillow, and repeating them with her lips at the same time: "Then the angels will come, with their music will come! Then the angels will come, with their music will come."
By-and-by Marnie was as tired of the words as of the tune, for she couldn't get either of them to stop going for a moment. Her fingers beat on the pillow, her lips moved in time, and through and through her head ran words and tune, until it seemed as if both together would drive her crazy.
She tried to think of something else. She tried to wonder about her Christmas presents; but she couldn't wonder. She tried to fancy how the little Swallows would receive her wreaths; but her head wouldn't let any fancies in. She tried to remember some of the good times she had had with the Swallows; but Marnie couldn't remember.
She couldn't do anything at all with her will. It seemed to have gone out of her control. It was having its own way to-day and teasing its poor little mistress shamefully. It wouldn't let her wonder, fancy, or remember. It made her give her whole attention to a few little notes accompanied by ten little words. It made her listen in spite of herself. It moved her lips and her fingers, although she longed to have some rest.
"O dear, dear, dear!" said Marnie, "what is the matter with me? I wish I could get that tune out of my head!"
It was only because she was so ill that she was so tormented; but Marnie never guessed how ill she was.
"'Then the angels will come." Marnie began to find something very disagreeable in these words themselves, setting aside the tune.
She was afraid of angels, for they seemed just like ghosts to her. It had always made her tremble to think of "Holy angels guard thy bed." The idea of something alive that she couldn't see nor touch being close by her, was frightful instead of comforting to her.
Now this poor sick child began to be tormented in a new way. Every time her fingers beat the tune and her lips said the words, a great fear made her weak and cold. She thought she heard wings rustling and felt the floating of garments around her. She pulled the bedclothes over her head, and a little shriek went out into the room from Marnie's lips.
Although Aunt Kate was deaf, she heard the shriek plainly, and she left her chair by the window, where she had been nodding and dreaming, and came tottering over to the bed.
"Marnie," said Aunt Kate, "was that you--eh?"
"Yes," Marnie cried. "This room's all full o' angels. Make 'em go away, can't you?"
"Angels!" said Aunt Kate -- "angels!"
"Stay right by me, Aunt Kate ; I'm afraid," said Marnie.
"There aint no angels here," said Aunt Kate, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
"I feel 'em and hear 'em!" cried Marnie. "Oh, I wish mother was at home; she wouldn't let 'em touch me."
"Your mother?" said Aunt Kate, with her hand making a trumped for her ear to hear better through.
"Yes," said Marnie.
Aunt Kate's mind was very weak now that she was so old, and she never understood half that was said to her; but she was much more puzzled than usual by Marnie's words.
"Did you say your mother was here, Marnie?" asked Aunt Kate. "You haven't seen her, have you? If you have, it's a sign --"
"What of?" cried Marnie, as Aunt Kate paused.
"She's been an angel this two year, and I thought you meant you'd felt and heard her."
"I forgot mother was an angel," said Marnie. "Why, so she is. But what about a sign, ?"
"Folks say it's a sign o' dying, if you see an angel," said Aunt Kate.
That was all that was needed to frighten Marnie's wits nearly away, and she screamed aloud several times.
Right in the midst of Marnie's screaming the doctor came in.
Marnie no sooner saw him walking over the floor than she became as quiet as a lamb. This good old doctor brought peace to everybody. There was something in his face that made people feel as if no harm could come to them while he was near.
He sat down on the edge of Marnie's bed, took her little hot hand in his, and smile in such a way that Marnie was no longer afraid nor unhappy.
"What was the matter, Marnie ?"
Marnie told him all about it; and then he laughed until it seemed the silliest thing in the world ever to have been afraid.
"There, Marnie," said the doctor. "I shan't laugh at you any more because I have been sick and foolish myself. You'd be surprised if I should tell you the funny things I've seen and heard when I've been sick. Just remember that sick people's thoughts are often ridiculous and don't you dare get frightened again. I'm going to give you a powder now that will put you to sleep. Open your mouth."
Marnie opened her mouth, and let the doctor put the little powder on her tongue. Then she opened it again for a big pink almond that the doctor had found in his pocket.
"If that doesn't take the taste away, sleep will do it before long," said the doctor. "Shut up your eyes, Marnie. I'll stay a little while."
Marnie closed her eyes; and with her hand lying safe in the doctor's, her mind at rest, and her fears quieted, she went off into a peaceful sleep.
The doctor put his ear down to her chest, and listened for a few moments to her breathing. Then he gently loosened the hold of the little fingers, laid them on the bed, pulled the cover up and tucked it around Marnie's throat, and went softly out of the room.
He walked very fast after he had closed the door, and he went to the Swallow's Nest.
The doctor opened the front door at Swallows' Nest and went down the hall. He patted the heads of two or three children on his way to mamma's room, for it was Saturday and they were all at home. Then he went in and patted Miss Rosy's soft little crown.
"A fine baby!" said the doctor; and he sat down in a chair and began to cough -- not because he had a cold, but because there was something on his mind that he didn't know how to get rid of. At last he said, "Mrs. Swallow, your little Marnie is in a bad way."
"Is she worse?" said mamma.
"So much worse that she'll never be better, ma'am," said the doctor.
"Why, doctor!" said mamma, "do you mean that Marnie is going to die?"
"Yes, madam," said the doctor, "I'm glad to say that she is. She has lived to suffer long enough, in my opinion. She would probably suffer more and more every year, if her life lasted. But there are not many days left to her now -- three or four, at the most. There should be someone there to take care of her. That old woman's worse than nobody."
"I am glad for Marnie, " said mamma; but mamma was sorry for herself,, she had grown so fond of the patient little girl.
"If you will tell my sister, I know she will be glad to go and take care of her, doctor," said mamma. "Does Marnie know it?"
"No," said the doctor. "It might be well to tell her, perhaps, if it could be told in the right way. Well, madam, I'll send Mrs. Palmer around in the course of the afternoon. I have given the child a powder that will keep her asleep till afternoon, I think. Good morning, ma'am."
"Good morning, doctor," said mamma. "If you see Lizzie in the hall, please send her to me."
In a few moments Lizzie came tripping in.
"Get up here on the bed, darling," said mamma. "I have some beautiful news to tell you."
Lizzie climbed up and looked into mamma's face eagerly.
"Lizzie," said mamma, "somebody that you and I know is soon going to heaven."
"Mamma," said Lizzie, her happy face clouding, "do you mean going to die?"
"Death is the way to heaven, you know, dear -- not a pleasant way, perhaps; but the end of the way is heaven."
"Mamma," said Lizzie, squeezing her mother's arm, "going alone?"
"No, dear," said mamma. "God will send an angel for her."
"For whom?" said Lizzie.
"For Marnie," said mamma.
"O mamma, is it Marnie ? Does she know it? Is she frightened?"
"She doesn't know it, dear. Should you think she would be frightened?"
"Oh, yes! oh, yes!" said Lizzie.
"Frightened at having an angel sent for her to take her up to heaven, where she will never be sick, nor poor, nor lonesome any more! Frightened at being taken to her mother and to Jesus!"
"I never thought that her mother was there," said Lizzie. "If you were there, mamma, I wouldn't be frightened; I'd be glad to go."
"I am so sorry I am sick now," said mamma. "Auntie will take care of Marnie, of course; but Marnie doesn't know her as well as she does us, or feel like talking to her as freely. If I could go and be with her, I could tell her what a lovely place heaven is, and how glad her mother will be to get her arms around her again. I think I could make her very willing to die. I'm so sorry I'm sick."
"Mamma," said Lizzie, "who will tell her?"
"I don't know," said mamma. "Can you think of any one?"
"I'm her most intimate friend," said Lizzie. "Don't you think she'd like to see me?"
"I think she'd like to see my little woman better than any one in the world," said mamma. "I'd like to have you go and comfort the poor little soul. She is very sick, and you could help auntie take care of her, and you could cheer her up; and then, when a good chance came, you could tell her about what is going to happen."
"I'll go," said Lizzie. "I aint a bit afraid now. Shall I go right off?"
"Look at my watch, dear, and see what time it is."
"Quarter of twelve, mamma," said Lizzie.
"Then you'd better wait till after dinner. The doctor said he had given Marnie something to make her sleep, and if you find her asleep you can be very still until she wakes. You can go and spend the afternoon, Lizzie, and be back to tea."
Lizzie walked slowly out of mamma's room, stopping to kiss Rosy on the way. She stepped very lightly down stairs, and down the hall and into the sitting-room; it seemed quite improper for her to walk as heavily as she walked every day, when no one was going to die; and as she came to the sitting-room door the laughing and shouting within jarred upon her so that she covered her ears.
Presently she put her hand on the door-know, turned it very carefully, opened the door softly, and stepped into the room with the lightest possible tread.
Lizzie felt as if it would be impossible to tell the children what she had come there to tell them while they were in such a frolic. She turned to leave the room, when Tim shouted out to know where she had been and where she was going.
"I've been to see mamma," said Lizzie, sitting down, "and she told me something."
"Good, bad, or indifferent?" asked Tim.
"Not indifferent," said Lizzie. "Good -- and bad too."
"How can it be both, goosey-gander?" said Charley.
"Boys," said Lizzie, laying her cheek in her hand, looking at them gravely, and speaking very low, "guess who's going to die?"
A great stillness fell upon the children. They looked at Lizzie in afright, but no one made a guess.
"Marnie!" said Lizzie, Then she told them all that mamma had told her.
Tim whistled and put his hands in his pockets, trying to hide his feelings. Charley followed his example, and Bobby, wanting to be manly too, did what the other boys did. Gracie took out her pockethandkerchief, for she felt very badly, and the tears were coming in her eyes.
After dinner Lizzie put on her things and started out alone. Gracie begged to go too ; but mamma was afraid that the two little girls together would do more harm than good.
As Lizzie walked along she seemed to herself like a little girl in a dream. She had to pinch her arm to make sure that it was the Lizzie Swallow who lived at Swallows' Nest. This was such a strange errand that she was going on, something so new in her whole life's experience, that she could hardly believe she was the same person she had been yesterday.
If she had not had a motherly little heart, that was always ready to pity and protect, she might have been afraid to go on this errand ; but anxiety to do what she could for her poor little friend drove all thoughts of fear away.
When Lizzie reached the door though, and put her hand on the latch, she felt her heart thumping fast ; but she would n't give herself time to repent that she had come. She lifted the latch and went right in.
Marnie's sleep was over. She had had a long rest, though it had been troubled by a few bad dreams. She felt a little better for the rest, and was thinking that she would sit up and furnish her last Christmas wreath, when she heard Lizzie's footsteps.
"O, Lizzie," said Marnie, "I'm so glad it is you!"
All Lizzie's queer feelings left her in a moment, when Marnie looked and spoke just as usual. She ran over to the bed and kissed her.
"And here's a kiss from mamma and one from Gracie, with lots of love,' said Lizzie.
Marnie smiled. "And how's the darling new baby?" she asked.
"It gets sweeter and cunninger every minute," said Lizzie. "Marnie, I've come to stay the whole afternoon, if you want me. Mamma said I could."
"I guess I do want you," said Marnie. "I'm real sick, Lizzie, and it makes me lonesome and scared."
"I know it," said Lizzie. "The doctor told mamma, and so I've come to stay right by you. Shall we play after I've taken my things off?"
"No," said Marnie, "let's talk ; I'm too tired to play."
Lizzie laid her hat, cloak, tippet, and mittens on a chair, and climbed up on the bed.
"Come close, Lizzie," said Marnie, " and then if I have any more sick thoughts I can take hold of your hand."
"Did you have sick thoughts, dear?" said Lizzie, getting up on her knees to smooth some wrinkles out of Marnie's pillow.
"Why, yes," said Marnie, "awful ones. And I b'lieved they were true, 'cause I did n't know I was sick till the doctor said so."
"Didn't you?" said Lizzie. "I should think you'd known from the way you ached."
"No, I didn't ache more than I do every day," said Marnie; " only I felt weak, just like a baby, and my breath hurt me."
Lizzie patted Marnie's white cheek with the very tips of her soft fingers.
"'I'm so sorry your breath hurts you," said Lizzie. "Maybe you ought not to be talking with it."
"I try to stop it sometimes," said Marnie, "so's to get rested."
" There, dear, do n't talk," said Lizzie. "Just look at me, and I'll talk. I don't know how I can, though, if you do n't be talking back."
"You can tell a story," said Marnie.
"I don't know any but baby ones," said Lizzie, "like what I tell Bobby."
"I just as lieves have a baby one," said Marnie.
"But they're little bits o' wee baby ones," said Lizzie. " They do n't have any sense, Marnie, and I only tell 'em to Bobby 'cause he likes 'em. I do wish I knew some good ones. This is the way I begin 'em: ' Once upon a time there was a little boy whose name was Bobby ;' and I have 'em all about him 'cause he's 'ceited, and he likes to hear anybody talk about himself."
"So am I 'ceited," said Marnie. " I
like to hear about myself, and I aint any better than a baby to-day. So please begin, 'Once upon a time there was a little girl whose name was Marnie.' "
"Well, I will, dear, if you want me to," said Lizzie. "And you mustn't 'spect anything but a silly baby story, for that's all the kind I know how to tell."
Lizzie settled herself and began.
" ONCE upon a time there was a little girl whose name was Marnie."
She felt Marnie's burning eyes fixed on her face, and saw the eager interest with which she waited to hear what was coming, and it seemed to Lizzie as if she never could think of one word to say; but she could not bear to disappoint her, so she made her tongue move.
"And--" said Lizzie, "and--"
"She was sick," put in Marnie.
" Yes," said Lizzie, " she had her back breaked--poor little thing!"
" Tell where she lived," said Marnie.
"Yes, I will," said Lizzie. "I'll try to go on now, if you wont talk any more, Marnie. She lived, in a little brown house with her Aunt Kate."
" And her mother," put in Marnie.
"And her mother," said Lizzie. " But that was before I knew you, and I can't tell about her."
" You can make up," said Marnie. "You can go by your own mother. Mothers are all alike."
" She lived in a little brown house with her Aunt Kate and her mother. Her mother worked, real hard, and kept the house clean. And she took care of Marnie, and made her nice little clothes to put on her. And every morning she used to kiss her the first thing when she woke up, and every night she used to tuck her in and kiss her good-night."
"That's every word honest and true," cried Marnie.
" Wait till I tell you the rest of the story," said Lizzie, quite delighted with her success.
" One day God told an angel to go down and get Marnie's mother, and bring her up to heaven, 'cause he had a great big house for her, and he wanted her to come and keep house in it. And the angel went and brought her. And when she got there it was the loveliest house she was ever in, and she had it all for her own."
" Wasn't she lonesome for me ?" asked Marnie in a grieved, tone.
"Very much," said Lizzie; "and she was all the time asking God if Marnie couldn't come too. She told him there was lots of room in her big, lovely new house, and that Marnie only lived in a little bit of a dirty old one; and she told him Marnie was just as sick as she could be, and lonesome for her mother besides; and she asked him if he would n't please let an angel go down and. get her."
"What did he say?" Marnie cried, lifting her head up from the pillow.
" Guess !" said Lizzie.
" No ?" asked Marnie.
Lizzie shook her head.
Marnie laughed right out loud with delight. Then she hid her face in the pillow, and said, "That's a make-believe story."
Lizzie put her head close by Marnie's on the pillow, so close that her plump, rosy cheek touched Marnie's wasted white cheek. She laid her arm gently over Marnie's shoulder, and then whispered : " Marnie, it's a true story."
" Not the ending of it," said Marnie.
" All, the whole of it," said Lizzie.
" Has God said ' Yes ' to my mother ?'
" Yes, he has."
"How do you know?"
" The doctor told mamma so."
Marnie lifted herself up, and opened her eyes wider and wider, as she looked into Lizzie's eyes, to make sure that she was telling her the truth.
Lizzie took great pains to have a happy expression on her face while it was being studied in that way. She made her lips smile as if they were glad.
Looking so long at Lizzie's smile brought one at length to Marnie's own face.
"Lizzie, where's the angel?" she asked.
" Coming," said Lizzie.
At that Marnie trembled.
"I'm afraid of angels," she said.
" Why, Marnie!" said Lizzie, " afraid of angels! I never heard of such a thing! Angels are perfectly lovely."
"You can't see 'em," said Marnie.
"I know it, said Lizzie. "That's 'cause our eyes are too little. If we had bigger eyes we could. Why, Marnie, you own mother's one; and I should n't wonder if she's the angel that's coming for you."
"It seems just as though I could see her, said Marnie, stretching her eyes very wide open. "But she looks like herself, with her dress on."
"'Course she looks like herself," said Lizzie -- just like her own truly self that used to be here."
"Lie down by me," said Marnie, falling back in her pillow, "and talk more. If I go to heaven, I've got to die, have n't I?"
"Never mind," said Lizzie; "it's only the same as going to sleep."
"And then when I wake up I'll be there?"
"Yes, that's the way of it," said Lizzie.
"But don't you think it hurts to die?" said Marnie, squeezing Lizzie's arm.
"No, dear," said Lizzie. "You'll shut up your eyes and forget all about everything, and then when you open 'em again you'll be looking right at your mother."
"Where?" asked Marnie.
"Perhaps in heaven, and perhaps on the way," said Lizzie.
"Are you sure mother's the angel God has sent for me, Lizzie?"
"I s'pose she is. He'd be more likely to send her than any other. Don't you think so, Marnie?"
"Yes," said Marnie. "And what time will she get here, Lizzie>"
"I don't know 'bout that," said Lizzie.
"I guess not before to-morrow."
"To-morrow, early in the morning?"
"I don't know, Marnie," said Lizzie. "Are you in a great hurry?"
"Yes," said Marnie. "Oh, I'll be so glad to see my mother! Oh, how I'll hug and kiss her! Oh, what tight hold I'll keep of her, for fear she'll ever get away from me again! And I want to see Jesus Christ too. Will he be glad to see me too, Lizzie?"
"Oh, very!" said Lizzie; " 'cause you love him, you know, Marnie."
"I guess I do!" said Marnie. "I've loved him for a good while, have n't I, Lizzie -- ever since that first time Gracie and Bobby came her to be my little teachers? But, Lizzie, I wont ever see you and all your family any more."
"Yes, you will," said Lizzie. "You'll be an angel, and have angels' eyes, that can see everything down here. The worst of it'll be that we can't any of us see you any more."
Lizzie said this very sadly, and then it was Marnie's turn to be the comforter.
"Never mind, Lizzie dear," said Marnie; "you'll all come some time, too, and maybe I'll be the angel God will send to get you."
"Maybe," said Lizzie; "but it 'most makes me cry to think of your going."
The children lay quite still for a while, clinging to each other. Which of them do you suppose was happier, the one that was going to live, or the one that was going to die? Why, Marnie, by far.
Little girl sitting up in your mamma's lap while she reads you this story, suppose mamma were to put you down, and go out of the room and close the door. Suppose you were to hunt for her, and not be able to find her anywhere, though you looked all over. Suppose you were to wait impatiently for her to come back hours, days, and then weeks, and then months and years. How lonesome you would be! How you would long more and more every day to see her! How you would cry for the touch of her hand, the look of her eyes, and the sound of her voice! How you would remember her kisses and caresses!
And then suppose that some day you were to be sent for to go to the place where she had gone. Do n't you think your feet would fly at the call? Do n't you think the prospect of seeing her after such a long time, of being taken up in her arms and loved and petted just as you once were, would make you very glad? Now you know why Marnie was so glad.
But up in heaven, where she was going, there was some one who was even a better Friend to her than her darling mother had bee -- some one who loved her better, and would be just as glad to see her. Jesus Christ was there! Oh, no wonder Marnie was glad to go!
The door opened softly, and in came the doctor with Aunt Elizabeth.
Thomas set a basked town in the door, and then instead of going right out, looked toward the bed. Marnie caught his glance, and she lifted her finger and beckoned to him. He had often brought them baskets from Mrs. Palmer, and always had something pleasant to say to Marnie.
Thomas took off his hat and walked over to the bed as quietly as he could in his heavy boots. He looked very solemn.
"Good-by, Thomas," said Marnie. "I'm going away not to come back."
"Well now," said Thomas, shaking gently the little hand that was held out to him, "I hope not. Maybe there'll come a turn. But good-by, good-by."
Thomas went out as quickly as he could, and no one saw his face, for he kept it turned away.
It was Marnie's first good-by, and a few tears came to her eyes.
The doctor felt of her pulse, laid his hand on her forehead, then took a powder out of his pocket and gave it to her.
"Here's another, Mrs. Palmer," said the doctor, "to give her this evening. I'll call in the morning."
Marnie turned her eyes quickly toward Lizzie, and then said :
"You'll have to come very early, doctor."
"On, no need of that, no need of that," said the doctor, going out of the door in a hurry.
When supper-time came, Marnie begged Lizzie not to go home at all.
"What if you do n't find me here when you come again to-morrow, Lizzie?" said Marnie.
"She will find you here, darling," said auntie. "You are not going to leave us so soon as that. It is much better for Lizzie to go home and get rested, and then be fresh for her visit with you to-morrow."
Marnie looked disappointed, for she had almost believed that her mother would kiss her good-morning the very next time the sun rose.
"I should n't think you'd be sorry to stay a little bit longer when you're going for good so soon," said Lizzie.
Marnie put her arm around Lizzie's neck.
"I do want to see you again, Lizzie," she said. "Be sure and come early in the morning. And here are some kisses for your mother and Gracie and Rosy."
Lizzie ran home as fast as she could fly, for it was getting dark, and she was afraid of meeting dogs and cows at this hour. She had a great deal to say to the children; but papa sent her off to bed soon after supper, so that a good long night's rest might prepare her for the next day.
Although the next day was Sunday, mamma gave Lizzie permission to spent it with Marnie instead of going to church; and so, as soon as she had finished her breakfast, she went out on her mission.
She found Marnie asleep. Auntie said she had had a restless night, but that the doctor had come in before breakfast and given another powder. Marnie tossed and moaned in her sleep, and threw her hands about; and it was an hour before she opened her eyes. Then she beckoned Lizzie to come.
Lizzie sat by her holding her hand; but Marnie was so weak, and it hurt her so to breathe, that she could n't speak often. The whole day passed in that way, with an occasional doze, a few words about heaven spoken now and then, and long quiet times when the little girls only held each other's hands and sat still.
Papa and the children came in after church, kissed Marnie, and said good-by, though they did n't mean it for a last good-by.
Pretty soon night came, and it was time for Lizzie to go home again. Just before she went Marnie whispered, a word or two at a time, for it was hard for her to speak then:
"I've got some Christmas presents for all your family, and Mrs. Palmer and Aunt Kate. One of 'em I did n't get done, and never will. They're in that little drawer nearest the stove. Get 'em, Lizzie."
Lizzie found the wreaths in the little drawer.
"They're perfectly lovely, Marnie," she said.
"All of 'em done but one," said Marnie. "But, Lizzie, I've got something a great deal better that I can give you, and that is my kitty. She is asleep over there by the stove. I wish you'd put her up here by me. I love her more than anything."
Lizzie brought the little kitten and let it cuddle down in Marnie's neck.
"This is the same one that was 'most starved to bones that day Gracie and Bobby first brought us things to eat," said Marnie.
Lizzie laid the Christmas wreaths together, and tied them up in a paper to carry home and hide until Tuesday, for Tuesday would be Christmas-day.
She kissed Marnie and went home, expecting to see her in the morning; but that night her angel came.
Aunt Elizabeth was bending over her when she saw her trying to lift up her hands, as if she wanted to reach some one. Then she smiled; and though she did not speak a word to tell whom she saw, Aunt Elizabeth felt sure that it was the angel God had sent for her, and that Marnie's mother was taking her in her arms again.
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Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her 19th-Century Girls' Series website;
please do not use on other sites without permission