1881 [c1871]




Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her 19th-Century Girls' Series website; please do not use on other sites without permission

" 0 DEAR ! " and Kathie Alston closed her book with a sigh; " if there were only real fairies ! If one could, wish for a thing and have it ! "

Then she glanced around the room. It was altogether unlike an enchanted palace. A faded and well-worn carpet, cane-seat chairs, the chintz cover on the lounge frayed at the edges, two or three old-fashioned pictures, and two plainly dressed women, who should have been fairy princesses instead. And just then it came to Kathie with great force how very hard their lives were,—her mother sewing wearily day after day, to lengthen out their scanty income, and poor pale Aunt Ruth never able to make much exertion in the way of working. If she only had a magic lamp to rub, or a purse in which, open it as often as she might, she would find a piece of gold, what splendid things she could bring about for her mother and Aunt Ruth, and Rob and Freddy! But she was only a little girl, and could not do anything.

"Kathie," her mother said presently, "you must put away your book and go to the store; and now it is so dark you will not have time to run up to Mrs. Grayson's."

Kathie started. Why, the clock was striking five, and the room was already in a haze of twilight. She had been reading just an hour and a half. Twice her mother had spoken to her about going to Mrs. Grayson's, and she had intended to go after reading a page or so, and thus she had gone on and on instead.

" Can't I do it in the morning, mamma ? " she asked, soberly, a little troubled in her conscience.

"No, it would make you late for school, and I promised Mrs. Grayson that the children's aprons should be done to-day. I'll go this evening. Run to the store now, and remember all the things I tell you. Look if you see the boys, and call them in."

Her mother's tired and tender voice touched her, for Kathie had a warm, generous heart.

" 0 mamma! I wish I was a fairy for your sake. Then you would n't have to work, and we 'd have a nice house and plenty of money ! "

Kathie clasped her arms around her mother's neck and kissed her fondly in a repentant mood.

"There are many kinds of fairies," Mrs. Alston said. "They don't all live in enchanted palaces." Then she gave Kathie the basket and some money, and repeated the list of articles she needed.

The little girl trudged along in the cold, thinking of all the marvellous things that might be done if one had the power; and then she wondered what her mother meant by saying there were different kinds of fairies. Of course no one really believed in them, charming as the stories 'were. Money could do a great many things that seemed almost like magic ; but she had no money and never would have. Children could n't earn any, and women rarely became rich. When Rob and Freddy grew to be men — But that was a long way off.

There was a bright little star up in the sky, twinkling with a wise look. It watched her so oddly out of its one golden eye that she could n't help saying, "0 you lovely fairy star!" and somehow it seemed, as if the fairies were not all dead.

But she was at the store before she knew it, went in and made her purchases, and started for home, watching the same beautiful star until she came in sight of the cottage. Then she drew a long breath of dismay. Mamma had put a tin pail in the bottom of the basket for yeast, and told her to leave it at the baker's in going, and stop for it coming back.

" 0 dear! " sighed Kathie, " I ought to have a fairy named Memory! " and for an instant she felt tempted to cry. Should she go home first, or carry the heavy basket back to the baker's ?

" Back to the baker's," said the star, — though I think it was a fairy inside of the little girl, called Conscience.

" It will teach me a lesson, for I am heedless "; and she turned around instantly. Then at the baker's she had to take nearly all the things out of the basket, and afterwards she hurried home to make up for lost time.

" How quick you have been !" her mother said, with a smile. Kathie, like other children, was sometimes given to loitering. " Did you see the boys ? "

" 0, I forgot, mamma; but I neither saw nor heard them. I'll go look for them, though."

Looking for the boys was one of Kathie's hardships. It was n't pleasant to go out in the cold and hunt round for them, and have them grumble at her because they were compelled to come in. But the star up in the blue sky seemed to challenge her to a race, and in a few seconds she reached the hill where the boys were coasting. Rob knew it was n't supper-time, and Freddy, with some big-boy assumption, declared she always had to come and spoil their fun.

" Just stop and try my new sled," exclaimed Charlie Darrell. " See, it's the ' Star,' though it's so dark you can hardly read. All red and gold, and such beautiful letters ! It was my Christmas present, and it's splendid! Goes like a flash! Come, Kathie ! "

It tempted Kathie as she heard the sleds go whizzing past. But she glanced up to the other star glowing so steadily, and remembered that she had followed her own inclinations all the afternoon. She would obey her mother now; still it was something of a struggle to do just right.

" No," she said, cheerfully, " though I 'm much obliged to you, Charlie, and I 'd like to try it another time. Mamma is waiting for us. Come, Freddy. Rob, please do. Mamma must go out immediately after supper, and we ought n't to keep her waiting."

Something in Kathie's voice touched Rob, but be turned rather ungraciously.

"What a nuisance girls are!" he said, crossly.

" No, they are n't," Charlie exclaimed, valiantly; " and Kathie 's the nicest girl I know. I wish I had such a sister. Only you might have ridden down once, Kathie."

As if Rob was afraid she would yield now, he hurried her away. She took Freddy by the hand, clasping the chubby little fingers in her own.

" I mean to tease mother to let me come out again to-night," Rob said presently. "All the boys will be there."

" But you know mamma does n't like you to go out evenings with the boys," Kathie said in a grave, sweet voice.

" It's hard if a fellow has to stay in forever "; and Rob gave a hummock of ice a tremendous kick.

Kathie made no reply just then, but she was revolving something in her mind. Presently she said, with her heart in her throat, " Rob, I wish you 'd do something partly for me instead."

" What ? " The tone was rather cold and discouraging.

" Mamma will have to go to Mrs. Grayson's this evening, and I wish you would go with her. It will make the walk seem shorter, and it's so lonesome to go about in the dark. It's my fault, for I read my fairy-book this afternoon when I should have gone."

" Bother ! I wish you 'd attend to your own business ! "

The quick tears rushed to Kathie's eyes. " I 'm very sorry, Rob, but I went to the grocery and brought home a heavy basketful. You know you said you 'd always go."

" Well, why did n't you call me ? " and at this kick the frozen snow flew in a shower.

"Mamma was in a hurry." After a pause and with a great effort she said, kindly, " Rob, you may have my paint-box on the first rainy day." Kathie's teacher had given her a box of paints for Christmas. A day or two after, when it rained, and Rob had to stay in the house, he insisted upon taking forcible possession, he being rather masterly and aggressive.

"They are Kathie's," his mother said, "and you have no right to them unless she gives it to you." Kathie did n't seem that way inclined. They were so bright and fresh, and the box so clean, that she hated to have them used.

Rob said nothing now, but washed his hands and ate his supper in a quiet manner.

"I'll wash the dishes, mamma," and Kathie began cheerily enough, tucking up her sleeves above her dimpled elbows, " so you can go right away."

Mrs. Alston looked pleased and put on her shawl.

" I am going along, so that no one will run away with you," Bob announced with an assumption of manliness.

" Are you ? O, thank you."

Rob felt repaid by his mother's smile and the soft color that stole into her cheeks. How pretty she would be if she was n't so thin and pale!

Then Freddy thought he ought to go, though the warm room and the warm tea had made him look rather sleepy ; besides, he was too small a boy to take such a tramp after supper.

" I'll put you to bed and tell you a story," whispered Kathie as the others went away.

Kathie did n't like to wash dishes, but she went at it cheerfully, and it was surprising how soon she seemed

to get through. Then she brushed up the room, drew Aunt Ruth's chair to the table, for she was an almost helpless invalid, and found her sewing-materials. Fred was nodding in the corner by this time, and was rather cross when she roused him, but after she had him tucked snugly in bed he remembered the story. She wrapped a shawl around her, and, sitting on the edge of the bed, commenced in a clear, happy voice ; but while the princess was yet in her enchanted castle, and the prince taken in the tolls of some old witch so that he could n't come to her rescue, Fred gave a little crooked snore; so Kathie pulled the pillow straight, and left him sleeping soundly.

There sat pale, patient Aunt Ruth embroidering. If there only were fairies, and one could touch her with a golden wand and make her well !

"Aunt Ruth, isn't it a pity fairy-stories are not true ? " she asked.

" I think some of them are."

" But no one has a wand that can transform other people, or cure them, or give them elegant houses to live in. And there never was a purse like that of Fortunatus."

Aunt Ruth smiled. " I think I have seen Cinderellas," she said, "and giant-killers, and people in enchanted castles who were set free at last, and girls who dropped something better than pearls and diamonds when they spoke."

"But the people in enchanted castles, tell me about them "; and Kathie's eyes were wide open with curiosity. " Where did you see them ? "

" Well, I think some brownie or ill-natured fairy put them in a dismal castle, and sometimes they were angry and would n't see the right way to get out. The fairy blinded them, I suppose, for they kicked and thumped against the walls, and sought every way but the right one, and then their eyes were opened suddenly, and they saw how many wrong ways they had been trying."

"0, that's children," said Kathie, with a laugh. "I mean real fairies."

"Well, I saw a real fairy awhile ago. A little girl who did several things that she sometimes considers great hardships. She was cheerful and patient, and made everything go along smoothly by some words that were better than diamonds."

" 0 Aunt Ruth ! " Some tender tears came in Kathie's eyes. Then she was quiet for many moments, thinking. She could not transport them all to an elegant palace, nor have servants come at her call, but she remembered the real fairies there were in the world,—Love, to begin with, a spirit who was tender, patient, self-sacrificing, never cross when things went wrong, never indolent when others could be saved any toil or burden.

" 0," she thought, with a sigh, " I never can be such a fairy " ; and she felt very humble. " But I might try to do a little." Then she remembered she had heard Rob ask mamma that morning to mend his gray mittens. So she went to the closet-shelf, where she had seen him lay them.

" What are you looking for i " Aunt Ruth said, after a little.

" Mamma's balls of yarn. I want to mend Rob's mittens, if you will show me."

" The balls are on a lower shelf, in a basket."

" 0 yes; I wish I did n't forget everything. Aunt Ruth."

"You must pay more attention, and think when you start to do anything."

She sat down by Aunt Ruth and began to darn. It was rather tedious to do it so neatly, and Kathie was not very fond of being quiet, so by and by she said, " Aunt Ruth, I 'd like to talk about the giant-killers —1 think I never saw any — and the giants."

" There are a great many giants in the world. Indolence, Ill-Temper, Envy, Selfishness, and more than I can mention. Some people only thrust them out of sight for a while, but I have met with several good honest Jacks who kept at them until they were killed. Giants like these spring up everywhere. We all have to fight them."

" Do you. Aunt Ruth ? " and Kathie looked up wonderingly.

" Do you always feel patient and sweet-tempered, Kathie ? Are you always willing to give up your own pleasure for the sake of others ? "

"0 no"; and Kathie could not forbear smiling at the thought. " But you are so good."

" I have some giants to fight. And I call in the aid of such fairies as will help me."

" 0 Aunt Ruth, it is hard to stay here day after day, and not he able to walk out, nor rich enough to ride, and then have to work all the time. I ought to be your good little fairy, and mamma's. Perhaps I can do something to make it brighter and easier."

" You can do a great deal."

" Aunt Ruth, these mittens are finished. It seemed so much when I first began."

" And it is very neatly done. You 're almost a fairy "; and Aunt Ruth kissed her. A warm glow came to her face as she recalled her mother's words. The fairies did n't all live in enchanted palaces.

" 0, there they come! " exclaimed Kathie, and, springing up, she put away the mittens.

Bob returned in a state of felicity.

" I had a splendid talk with Dick Grayson," he said, " and he is n't half so proud as the boys make out, although he does go to the Academy. He asked me to come over some evening, and 0, Kathie, he has such lots of books, and a little study all by himself, where he reads and tries experiments, and his father is so kind and pleasant. Mrs. Grayson praised me for not letting mamma go out alone, and I wanted to tell her it was your thought, not mine. I 'm so glad I went. And, Kathie, I shall not want the paints, at least not for pay."

" You can have them to paint your boat," she rejoined, yielding of her own free will a point that she had refused him several times.

" You 're a darling! " exclaimed Rob, boy fashion.

She took a long look at the star before she went to bed. Did it never get tired shining steadily on and on ? Did n't it want to go to some other place or do something else, — become a sun or moon, for instance, as any little boy or girl would in its place ? God wanted it just to shine, and it did its duty. And he wanted her to be a helpful little girl, or else he would have given her a beautiful house, plenty of money, and nothing to do. There were princesses in the fairy stories who had everything they called for, but the real fairies ran to and fro, did as they were bidden, never complaining of hard work. A little while ago she was wishing to be a fairy, one of the working kind it must be.

So she said her prayers reverently and crept into her little bed, thinking of the many things she wanted to do, and most of all to make life a little easier for dear, sweet mamma. There was no way of getting rich, so they must always toil. Wishing for purses of gold and mines of jewels would n't bring about any result) but being cheerful and industrious might.

" I 'll try and be a fairy," she thought as she fell asleep.

On to chapter two