CHAPTER VI: UP IN THE APPLE TREE
" What's wanted ? "
'' Where are you? "
" I don't know where ' here ' is."
" Well, you'll find out after a while."
Winnie trotted along down the garden-path, and across the brook. "Here" proved to be the great golden-russet tree. High up on a gnarled old branch, there was a little flutter of a crimson and white gingham dress, and a merry face peeping down through the dainty pink blossoms that blushed all over the tree. It looked so pretty, framed in by the bright color and glistening sunlight, and it seemed to fit in so exactly with the fragrance and the soft, dropping petals, and the chirping of the blue-birds overhead, that I doubt if even Mrs. Surly would have had the heart to say, as Mrs. Surly was much in the habit of saying,-
" A young lady, twelve years old, climbing an apple-tree! Laws a massy! I pity your ma -what a sight of trainin' she must ha' wasted on you! "
" It looks nice up there," said Winnie, admiringly, looking up with his mouth open;
" I'm acomin' up."
" Very well," said Gypsy.
Winnie assailed a low-hanging bough, and crawled half way up, where he stopped.
"Why don't you come?" said Gypsy.
" Oh, I-well, I think I like it better down here. You can see the grass, and things.
There's a black grasshopper here, too."
"What do you want, anyway?" asked Gypsy, taking a few spasmodic stitches on a long, white seam; "I'm busy. I can't talk to little boys when I'm sewing."
"Oh, I guess I don't want anythin', very much," said Winnie, folding his arms composedly, as if he had seated himself for the day; " I'm five years old."
Down went Gypsy's work, and a whole handful of pink and white blossoms came fluttering into Winnie's eyes.
"How am I going to sew?" said Gypsy, despairingly; "you're so exactly in the right place to be hit. I don't believe Mrs. Surly herself could help snowballing you."
' ' Mrs. Surly snowball! Why, I never saw her. Wouldn't it be just funny? "
" Winnie Breynton, will you please to go away? "
" I say, Gypsy,-if you cut off a grasshopper's wings, and frow him in a milk-pan, what would he do ? " remarked Winnie, inclining to metaphysics, as was Winnie's custom when he wasn't wanted. Gypsy took several severe stitches, and made no answer.
"Gypsy-if somebody builded a fire inside of me and made steam, couldn't I draw a train of cars ? "
" Look here--Gyp., when a cat eats up a mouse--"
Winnie forgot what he was aiming at, just there, coughed, and began again.
"Samson could have drawed a train of cars, anyway."
" Oh, Winnie Breynton! "
"Well, if he had a steam-leg, he'd be jest as good as an engine-wouldn't I like to seen him! " Just then a branch struck Winnie's head with decidedly more emphasis than the handful of blossoms, and Winnie slid to the ground, and remarked, with dignity, that he was sorry he couldn't stay longer. He would come again another day. About half way up the walk, he stopped, and turned leisurely round.
' ' Oh--Gypsy! Mother want's to know where's the key of the china-closet she let you have. She's in a great hurry. That's what I come down for; I s'posed there was something or nuther."
"Why, Winnie Breynton! and you've been sitting there all this-"
"Where's the key?" interrupted Winnie, severely; ' ' mother hadn't ought to be kept waitin'. "
" It's up-stairs in-in, I guess in my slippers," said Gypsy, stopping to think.
" Slippers! "
' ' Yes. I was afraid I should forget to put if up, so I put it in my slipper, because I should feel it, and remember it. Then I took off the slippers, and that was the last I thought of it."
" It was very careless," said Winnie, with a virtuous air. It was noticeable that he took good care to be out of hearing of Gypsy's reply.
Gypsy returned to her seam, and the apple-blossoms, and to her own little meditations about the china-closet key; which, being of a private and somewhat humiliating nature, are not given to the public.
The apple-tree stood in one corner of a very pleasant garden. Mr. Breynton had a great fancy for working over his trees and flowers, and, if he had not been a publisher and bookseller, might have made a very successful landscape-gardener. Poor health had driven him out of the professions, and the tastes of a scholar drove him away from. out-door life; he had compromised the matter by that book-store down opposite the post-office. The literature of a Vermont town is not of the most world-stirring nature, and it did occur to him, occasionally, that business was rather dull, but his wife loved the old home, the children were comfortable and happy, and he himself, he thought, was getting rather old to start out on any new venture elsewhere; so York- bury seemed likely to be the family nest for life.
It was the same methodical kind-heartedness that made him at once so thoughtful and tender a father, and yet so habitually worried by the children's little failings, that gave him his taste for beautiful flowers and shrubbery, and his skill in cultivating them. This garden was his pet enterprise. It was gracefully laid out with winding walks, evergreens, fruit-trees and flower-beds; not in stiff patterns, but with a delightful studied negligence, such as that with which an artist would group the figures on a landscape. Rocks and vines and wild flowers were scattered over the garden very much as they would be found in the fields; stately roses and dahlias, 'delicate heliotrope and aristocratic fuchsias, would grow, side by side, with daisies and buttercups. But, best of all, Gypsy liked the corner where the golden russet stood. A bit of a brook ran across it, which had been caught in a frolic one day, as it went singing away to the meadows, and dammed up and paved down into a tiny pond.
The short-tufted grass swept over its edge like a fringe, and in their season slender hair- bells bent over, casting little blue shadows into the water; the apple-boughs, too, hung over it, and flung down their showers of pearls and rubies, when the wind was high. More- over, there was a statue. This statue was Gypsy's pride and delight. It was Aladdin's Palace, the Tuilleries, Versailles, and the Alhambra, all in one. The only fault to be found with it was that it was not marble. It was a species of weather-proof composition, but very finely carved, and much valued by Mr. Breynton. It was a pretty thing-a water-nymph rising from an unfolded lily, with both hands parting her long hair from a wondering face, that, pleased with its own beauty, was bent to watch its reflection in the water.
Altogether, the spot was so bewitching, that it is little wonder Gypsy's work kept dropping into her lap, and her eyes wandering away somewhere into dreamland.
One of those endless seams on a white skirt that you have torn from the placket to the hem, is not a very attractive sight, if you have it to mend, and don't happen to like to sew any better than Gypsy did.
She seemed fated to be interrupted in her convulsive attempts at "run-and-back stitching." Winnie was hardly in the house, before: Sarah Rowe came out in the garden to hunt her up.
"Oh, dear," said Gypsy, as Sarah's face appeared under the apple-boughs; "I'm not a bit glad to see you."
" That's polite," said Sarah, reddening;. " I'll go home again."
"Look," said Gypsy, laughing; "just see what I've got to mend, and I came out here on purpose to get it done, so I could come over to your house. You see I oughtn't to be glad to see you at all, but I am exceedingly."
Sarah climbed up, and sat down beside her upon a long, swaying bough.
"Now don't you speak a single word," said Gypsy, with an industrious air, "till I get this done."
"No, I won't," said Sarah. "What do you have to sew for, Saturday afternoons ? "
"Why, it's my mending: mother wants me to do it Saturday morning, and of course it's a great deal easier, because then you have all the afternoon to yourself, only I never seem to .get time; I'm sure I don't know why. "This morning I had my history topics to write."
" Why, I wrote mine yesterday! "
"I meant to, but I forgot; Miss Melville said I musn't put it off another day. There! I wasn't going to talk."
"Mother does my mending for me," said Sarah.
"She does! Well, I just wish my mother would. She says it wouldn't be good for me."
" How did you tear such a great place, I'd like to know?"
" Put my foot right through it," said Gypsy, disconsolately. " It was hanging on a chair, and I just stepped in it and started to run, and down I went,-and here's the skirt. I was running after the cat. I'd put her under my best hat, and she was spinning down stairs. You never saw anything so funny! I'm always doing such things,-1 mean like the skirt. I do declare! you mustn't talk."
"I'm not," said Sarah, laughing; "it's you that are talking. You haven't sewed a stitch for five minutes, either."
Gypsy sighed, and her needle began to fly savagely. There was a little silence.
"You see," said Gypsy, breaking it, "I'm trying to reform."
"Reform?" said Sarah, with some vague ideas of Luther and Melancthon, and Gypsy's wearing a wig and spectacles, and reading Cruden's' 'Concordance."
"Yes," nodded Gypsy, "reform. I never knew anybody need it as much as I. I never do things anyway, and then I do them wrong, and then I forget all about them. Mother says I'm improving. She says my room used to look like a perfect Babel, and now I keep the wardrobe door shut, and dust it out sometimes. Then there's my mending. I came out here so's to be quiet and keep at it. The poor dear woman is so afraid I won't learn to do things in a lady-like way. It would be dreadful not to grow up a lady, wouldn't it ? "
"Dreadful!" said Sarah; "only I wish you'd hurry and get through, so we can go down to the swamp and sail. Couldn't you take a little bigger stitches ? "
"No," said Gypsy, resolutely; "I should have to rip it all out. I'm going to do it right, if it takes me all day."
Gypsy began to sew with a will, and Sarah, finding it was for her own interest in the end, stopped talking; so the fearful seam was soon neatly finished, the work folded up, and the thimble and scissors put away carefully in the little green reticule.
"I lose so many thimbles,-you don't know! " observed Gypsy, by way of comment. "I'm going to see if I can't keep this one three months."
"Now let's go," said Sarah.
" In a minute; I must carry my work up first. I'm going to jump off-it's real fun. You see if I don't go as far as that dandelion."
So Gypsy sprang from the tree, carrying a. shower of blossoms with her.
" Oh, look out for the statue! " cried Sarah.
The warning came too late. Gypsy fell short of her mark, hit the water-nymph heavily, and it fell with a crash into the water, where the paved bottom was hard as rock.
"Just see what you've done!" said Sarah, who had not a capacity for making comforting remarks. What do you suppose your father will say ? "
Gypsy stood aghast. The water gurgled over the fallen statue, whose pretty, upraised hands were snapped at the wrist, and the wondering face crushed in. There was a moment's silence.
"Don't you tell!" said Sarah, at length; "nobody saw it fall, and they'll never think you did it. You just seem surprised, and keep still about it."
Gypsy flushed to her forehead.
" Why, Sarah Rowe! how can you say such a thing ? I wouldn't tell a lie for anything in this world! "
"It wouldn't be a lie!" said Sarah, looking ashamed and provoked. "You needn't say you didn't do it."
"It would be a lie!" said Gypsy, decidedly. "He'd ask if anybody knew,-I wouldn't be so mean, even if I knew he couldn't find out. I am going to tell him this minute."
Gypsy started off, with her cheeks still very red, up the garden paths and down the road, and Sarah followed slowly. Gypsy's sense of honor had received too great a shock for her to take pleasure just then in Sarah's company, and Sarah had an uneasy sense of having lowered herself in her friend's eyes, so the two girls separated for the afternoon.
It was about a mile to Mr. Breynton's store. The afternoon was warm for the season, and the road dusty; but Gypsy ran nearly all the way. She was too much troubled about the accident to think of anything else, and in as much haste to tell her father as some children would have been to conceal it from-him.
Old Mr. Simms, the clerk, looked up over his spectacles in mild astonishment, as Gypsy entered the store flushed, and panting, and pretty. To Mr. Simms, who had no children of his own, and only a deaf wife and a lame dog at home for company, Gypsy was always pretty, always " such a wonderful development for a young person," and always just about right in whatever she did.
" Why, good afternoon, Miss Gypsy," said Mr. Simms; " I'm surprised to see you such a warm day-very much surprised. But you always were a remarkable young lady."
"Yes," panted Gypsy; "where's father, Mr. Simms ? "
" He's up in the printing-room just now, talking with the foreman. Can I carry any message for you, Miss Gypsy? "
" Oh, Mr. Simms," said Gypsy, confidentially, " I've done the most dreadful thing! "
"Dear me! I don't see how that is possible," said Mr. Simms, taking his spectacles off nervously, and putting them on again.
"I have," said Gypsy; "I've broken the water-nymph! "
" Is that all ? " asked Mr. Simms, looking relieved; " why, how did it happen ? "
"I jumped on it."
" Jumped on it ! "
"Yes; I'm sure I don't know what father'll say."
"Well, I must say you are a wonderful young person," said Mr. Simms, proudly. " I'm sure I'm glad that's all. Don't you fret, my dear. Your father won't care much about water-nymphs, when he has such a daughter."
"But he will," said Gypsy, who regarded Mr. Simm's compliments only as a tiresome interruption to conversation, and by no means as entitled to any attention; "he will be very sorry, and I am going to tell him right off. Please, Mr. Simms, will you speak to him ? "
" Remarkable development of veracity! " said Mr. Simms, as he bowed himself away in his polite, old-fashioned way, and disappeared up the stairway that led to the printing-rooms. It seemed to Gypsy, waiting there so impatiently, as if her father would never come
down. But come he did at last, looking very much surprised to see her, and anxious to know if the house were on fire, or if Winnie were drowned.
"No," said Gypsy, nothing has happened,-I mean nothing of that sort. It's only about me. I have something to tell you."
" I think I will walk home with you," said her father. " There isn't much going on Saturday afternoons. Simms, you can lock up when you go home to supper. I hope you haven't been giving your mother any trouble, or thrown your ball into Mrs. Surly's windows again," he added, nervously, as they passed out of the door and up the street together.
"No, sir," said Gypsy, faintly; "it's worse than that."
Mr. Breynton heaved a sigh, but said nothing.
" I know you think I'm always up to mischief, and I don't suppose I'll ever learn to be a lady and know how not to break things, and I'm so sorry, but I didn't suppose there was any harm in jumping off an apple-tree, and the water-nymph went over and perhaps if you sent me to school or something I'd learn better where they tie you down to a great board," said Gypsy, talking very fast, and quite forgetting her punctuation.
" The water-nymph! " echoed Mr. Breynton.
"Yes," said Gypsy, dolefully; "right over, head-first-into the pond-broken to smash! "
"Oh, Gypsy! that is too bad."
" I know it," interrupted Gypsy; " I know it was terribly careless-terribly. Did you ever know anything so exactly like me ? The worst of it is, being sorry doesn't help the matter. I wish I could buy you another. Won't you please to take my five dollars, and I'll earn some more picking berries."
"I don't want your money, my child," said Mr. Breynton, looking troubled and puzzled. "I'm sorry the nymph is gone; but somehow you do seem to be different from. other girls. I didn't know young ladies ever jumped."
Gypsy was silent. Her father and mother seemed to think differently about these things. To her view, and she felt sure, to her mother's, the fault lay in the carelessness of not finding: out whether the image was in her way. She could not see that she was doing anything wrong in going out alone into an apple-tree, and springing from a low bough, upon the soft grass. Very likely, when she was a grown-up young lady, with long dresses and hair done up behind, she shouldn't care anything about climbing trees. But that was another question. However, she had too much respect for her father to say this. So she hung her head, feeling very humble and sorry, and wondering if Mr. Simms couldn't plaster the nymph together somehow, he was always so ready to do things for her.
"Well," said her father, after a moment's thought, in which he had been struggling with a sense of disappointment at the destruction of his statue, that would have made a less kind- hearted man scold.
"Well, it can't be helped; and as to the climbing trees, I suppose your mother knows best. I am glad you came and told me, anyway-very glad. You are a truthful child, Gypsy, in spite of your faults."
"I couldn't bear to tell lies," said Gypsy, brightening a little.
It is possible this was another one of the reasons why people had such a habit of loving Gypsy. What do you think?
CHAPTER VII: JUST LIKE GYPSY
ONE afternoon Gypsy was coming home from the post-office. It was a rare June day. The great soft shadows fell and. faded on the mountains, and the air was sweet with the breath of a hundred fields where crimson clovers nodded in the sleepy wind. It seemed to Gypsy that she had never seen such mellow sunlight, or skies. so pure and blue; that no birds ever sung such songs in the elm-trees, and never were butterflies so golden and brown and beautiful as those which fluttered drowsily over the tiny roadside clovers. The thought came to her like a little sudden heart-throb, that thrilled her through and through, that this world was a very great world, and very beautiful,-it seemed so alive and happy, from the arch of the blazing sky down to the blossoms of the purple weeds that hid in the grass. She wondered that she had never thought of it before. How many millions of people were enjoying this wonderful day! What a great thing it was to live in such a world, where everything was so beautiful and useful and happy.' The very fact that she was alive in it made her so glad. She felt as if she would like to go off on the rocks somewhere, and shout and jump and sing.
As she walked slowly along past the stores and the crowded tenement-houses, swinging her little letter-basket on her arm, and dreaming away with her great brown eyes, as such young eyes will always dream upon a summer's day, there suddenly struck upon that happy thought of hers a mournful sound.
It was a human groan.
It grated on Gypsy's musing, as a file grates upon smooth marble; she started, and looked up. The sound came from an open window directly over her head. What could anybody be groaning about such a day as this ? Gypsy felt a momentary impatience with the mournful sound; then a sudden curiosity to know what it meant. A door happened to be open near her, and she walked right in, without a second thought, as was the fashion in which Gypsy usually did things. A pair of steep stairs led up from the bit of an entry, and a quantity of children, whose fences and hands were decidedly the worse for wear, were playing on them.
" How do you do? " said Gypsy. The children stared.
"Who lives here?" asked Gypsy, again.
The children put their fingers in their mouths.
"Who is that groaning so?" persisted Gypsy, repressing a strong desire to box their cars. The children crawled a little further up-stairs, and peered at her from between their locks of shaggy hair, as if they considered her a species of burglar. At this moment a side door opened, and a red-faced woman, who was wiping her hands on her apron, put her head out into the entry, and asked, in rather a surly tone, what was wanted.
"Who is that groaning ? " repeated Gypsy.
" Oh, that's nobody but Grandmother Littlejohn," said the woman, with a laugh, " she's always groanin'."
"But what does she groan for?" insisted Gypsy, her curiosity nowise diminished to see a person who could be " always groanin'," through not only one, but many, of such golden summer days.
"Oh, I s'pose she's got reason enough, for the matter of that," said the woman, carelessly; " she's broke a bone,-- though she do make a terrible fuss over it, and very onobligin' it is to the neighbors as has the lookin' after of her."
"Broken a bone! Poor thing, I'm going right up to see her! " said Gypsy, whose compassion was rising fast.
" Good luck to you! " said the woman, with a laugh Gypsy did not like very much. It only strengthened her resolution, however, and she ran up the narrow stairs scattering the children right and left.
Several other untidy-looking women opened doors and peered out at her as she went by; but no one else spoke to her. Guided by the sound of the groans, which came at regular intervals like long breaths, she went up a second flight of stairs, more narrow and more dark than the first, and turned into a little low room, the door of which stood open.
" Who's there! " called a fretful voice from inside.
" I," said Gypsy; " may I come in? "
"I don't know who you be," said the voice, "but you may come long ef you want to." Gypsy accepted the somewhat dubious invitation. The room was in sad disorder, and very dusty. An old yellow cat sat blinking at a sunbeam, and an old, yellow,
wizened woman lay upon the bed. Her forehead was all drawn and knotted with pain and her mouth looked just like her voice -- fretful and sharp. She turned her head slowly, as Gypsy entered, but otherwise she did not alter her position; as if it were one which she could not change without pain.
" Good afternoon," said Gypsy, feeling a little embarrassed, and not knowing exactly what to say, now she was up there.
" Good arternoon," said Grandmother Littlejohn, with a groan.
" I heard you groan out in the street," said Gypsy, rushing to the point at once; ' ' I came up to see what was the matter."
"Matter?" said the old woman sharply, "I fell down stairs and broke my ankle, that's the matter, an' I wonder the whole town hain't heerd me holler,- I can't sleep day nor night with the pain, an' it's matter enough, I think."
" I'm real sorry," said Gypsy.
Mrs. Littlejohn broke into a fresh spasm of groaning at this, and seemed to be in such suffering, that it made Gypsy turn pale to hear her.
"Haven't you had a doctor?" she asked, compassionately.
" Laws yes," said the old woman. " Had a doctor! I guess I have, a young fellar who said he was representative from somewhere, from Medical Profession, seems to me it war, but I never heerd on't, wharever it is, an' he with his whiskers only half growed, an' putting of my foot into a wooden box, an' murderin' of me -- I gave him a piece of my mind, and he hain't come nigh me since, and I won't have him agin noways."
"But they always splinter broken limbs,'" said Gypsy.
"Splinters?" cried the old woman; "I tell ye I fell down stairs! I didn't get no splinters in."
Gypsy concluded to suppress her surgical information.
"Who takes care of you?" she asked, suddenly.
"Nobody! I don't want nobody takin' care of me when I ain't shut up in a box on the bed, an' now I am, the neighbors is shy enough of troublin' themselves about me, an' talks of the work-house. I'll starve fust!"
" Who gives you your dinners and suppers ? " asked Gypsy, beginning to think Grand- mother Littlejohn was a very ill-treated woman.
"It's little enough I gets," said the old woman, groaning afresh; ' 'they brings me up a cup of cold tea when they feels like it, and crusts of bread, and I with no teeth to eat 'em. I hain't had a mouthful of dinner this day, and that's the truth, now! "
"No dinner," cried Gypsy. "Why, how sorry I am for you ! I'll go right home and get you some, and tell my mother. She'll take care of you-she always does take care of everybody."
"You're a pretty little gal," said Mrs. Littlejohn, with a sigh; "an' I hope you'll be rewarded for botherin' yourself about a poor old woman like me. Does your ma use white sugar ? I like white sugar in my tea."
"Oh yes," said Gypsy, rather pleased than otherwise to be called a "pretty little gal." "Oh yes; we have a whole barrel full. You can have some just as well as not; I'll bring you down a pound or so, and I have five dollars at home that you might have. What would you like to have me get for you ? "
"Dear me!" said Mrs. Littlejohn; "what a angel of mercy to the poor and afflicted you be! I should like some fresh salmon and green peas, now, if I could get 'em."
"Very well, "said Gypsy; "I'll hurry home and see about it."
Accordingly she left the old woman groaning out her thanks, and went down the narrow stairs, and into the street.
She ran all the way home, and rushed into the parlor where her mother was sitting quietly sewing. She looked up as the door burst open, and Gypsy swept in like a little hurricane, her turban hanging down her neck, her hair loose and flying about an eager face that was all on fire with its warm crimson color and twinkling eyes.
' 'Why Gypsy!"
"Oh, mother, such an old woman-such a poor old woman! groaning right out in the street-1 mean, I was out in the street, and heard her groan up two flights of the crookedest stairs, and she broke her ankle, and the neighbors won't give her anything to eat, unless she goes to the poor-house and starves, and she hasn't had any dinner, and-"
"Wait a minute, Gypsy; what does all this mean ?"
"Why, she fell down those horrid stairs and broke her ankle, and wants some salmon and green peas, and I'm going to give her my five dollars, and-Oh, white sugar, some white sugar for her tea. I never heard anybody groan so, in all my life! "
Mrs. Breynton laid down her work, and laughed.
"Why, mother!" said Gypsy, reddening. " I don't see what there is to laugh at! "
" My dear Gypsy, you would laugh if you had heard your own story. The most I can make out of it is, that a little girl who is so excited she hardly knows what she is talking about, has seen an old woman who has been begging for fresh salmon."
"And broken her ankle, and is starving," began Gypsy.
"Stop a minute," interrupted Mrs. Breynton, gently. "Sit down and take off your things, and when you get rested tell me the story quietly and slowly, and then we will see what is to be done for your old woman."
Gypsy, very reluctantly, obeyed. It seemed to her incredible that any one could be so quiet and composed as her mother was, when there was an old woman in town who had had no dinner. However, she sat still and fanned herself, and when she was rested, she managed to tell her story in as connected and rational manner, and with as few comments and exclamations of her own, as Gypsy was capable of getting along with, in any narration.
"Very well," said her mother, when it was finished; "I begin to understand things better. Let me see: in the first place, you felt so sorry for tile old woman, that you went alone into a strange house, among a sort of people you knew nothing about, and without stopping to think whether I should be willing to have you-wasn't that so ? "
"Yes'm," said Gypsy, hanging her head a little; "I didn't think-she did groan so."
"Then Mrs. Littlejohn seems to like to complain, it strikes me."
"Complain!" said Gypsy, indignantly.
"Yes, a little. However, she might have worse faults. The most remarkable thing about her seems to be her modest request for salmon and white sugar. You propose giving them to her ? "
"Why, yes'm," said Gypsy, promptly. "' She's in such dreadful pain. When I sprained my wrist, you gave me nice things to eat."
"But it wouldn't follow that I should give Mrs. Littlejohn the same," said Mrs. Breynton, gently. "Salmon and white sugar are expensive luxuries. I might be able to do something to help Mrs. Littlejohn, but I might not be able to afford to take her down the two or three pounds of sugar you promised her, nor to spend several dollars on fresh salmon-a delicacy which we have had on our own table but once this season. Besides, there are thirty or forty sick people in town, probably, who are as poor and as much in need of assistance as this one old woman. You see, don't you, that I could not give salmon and peas and white sugar to them all, and it would be unwise in me to spend all my money on one, when I might divide it, and help several people."
"But there's my five dollars," said Gypsy, only half convinced.
"Very well, supposing I were to let you give it all away to Mrs. Littlejohn, even if she were the most worthy and needy person that could be found in town, what then ? It is all gone. You have nothing more to give. The next week a poor little girl who has no hat, and can't go to Sunday-school, excites your sympathy, and you would be glad to give something toward buying her a hat - you have not a copper. You go to Monthly Concert, and want to drop something into the contribution box, but Mrs. Littlejohn has eaten up what you might have given. You want to do something for the poor freedmen, who are coming into our armies ; you cannot do it, for you have nothing to give."
"Well," said Gypsy, with a ludicrous expression of conviction and discomfiture, " I suppose so; I didn't think."
"Didn't think! the old enemy, Gypsy. And now that I have pointed out the little mistakes you made this afternoon, I want to tell you, Gypsy, how pleased I am that you were so quick to feel sorry for the old woman, and so ready to be generous with your own money and help. I would rather have you fail a dozen times on the unselfish side, than to have you careless and heartless towards the people God has made poor, and in suffering -there! I have given you a long sermon. Do you think mother is always scolding ? "
Mrs. Breynton drew her into her arms, and gave her one of those little soft kisses on the forehead, that Gypsy liked so much. "I will go down and see the old woman after supper," she said, then.
"Couldn't you go before?" suggested Gypsy. "She said she hadn't had any dinner."
"We can't do things in too much of a hurry; not even our charities," said Mrs. Breynton, smiling. " I have some work which I cannot leave now, and I have little doubt the woman had some dinner. The poor are almost always very kind neighbors to each other. I will be there early enough to take her some supper."
So Gypsy was comforted for Mrs. Littlejohn.
It was nearly dark when Mrs. Breynton came up from the village, with her pleasant smile, and her little basket that half Yorkbury knew so well by sight, for the biscuit and the jellies, the blanc-mange, and the dried beef and the cookies, that it brought to so many sick-beds. Gypsy had been watching for her impatiently, and ran down to the gate to meet her.
"Well, did you find her ?"
" What do you think of her ? " asked Gypsy, a little puzzled by her mother's expression.
"She is a good deal of a scold, and something of a sufferer," said Mrs. Breynton. Gypsy's face fell, and they walked up to the house in silence.
" Then you're not going to do anything for her ? " asked Gypsy, at length, in a disappointed tone.
" Oh, yes. She needs help. She can't be moved to the poor-house now, and, besides, is likely to get well before long, if she is properly taken care of. I gave her her supper, and have: arranged with one or two of the ladies to send her meals for a few days, till we see how she is, and what had better be done. I take care of her to-morrow, and Mrs. Rowe takes her the next day."
"Good!" said Gypsy, brightening; "and I may take her down the things, mayn't I, mother ? "
" If you want to."
Gypsy went to bed as happy as a queen. The next morning she rose early, to be sure to be in time to take Mrs. Littlejohn's breakfast; and was disappointed enough, when her mother thought it best she should wait till she had eaten her own. However, on the strength of the remembrance of her mother's tried and proved wisdom, on certain, other little occasions, she submitted with a good grace.
She carried Mrs. Littlejohn a very good breakfast of griddle-cakes and fish-balls and sweet white bread, and was somewhat taken aback to find that the old woman received it rather curtly, and asked after the salmon.
It was very warm at noon. When she carried the dinner, the walk was long and wearisome, and Mrs. Littlejohn neglected to call her an angel of mercy, and it must be confessed Gypsy's enthusiasm diminished perceptibly.
That evening Mr. and Mrs. Breynton were out to tea, and Tom was off fishing. Mrs. Breynton left Mrs. Littlejohn's supper in a basket on the shelf, and told Gypsy where it was. Gypsy had been having a great frolic in the fresh hay with Sarah Rowe, and came in late. No one but Winnie was there. She eat her supper in a great hurry, and went out again. Patty saw her from the window, and concluded she had gone to Mrs. Littlejohn's.
That night, about eleven o'clock, some one knocked at Mrs. Breynton's door, and woke her up.
" Who is it ? " she called.
"Oh, mother Breynton!" said a doleful voice; " what do you suppose I've done now ? "
"I'm sure I don't know," said Mrs. Breynton, with a resigned sigh.
" I hope she hasn't been walking in her sleep again," said Mr. Breynton, nervously.
"Forgotten Mrs. Littlejohn's supper," said the doleful voice through the key-hole.
" I know it," said Gypsy, humbly. " Couldn't I dress and run down ? "
"Why, no indeed! it can't be helped now. Run back to bed."
"Just like Gypsy, for all the world!" said Tom, the next morning. "Always so quick and generous, and sorry for people, and ready to do, and you can depend on her just about as much as you could on a brisk west wind! "
On to chapter eight
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