All that morning they were very busy settling the new-comer, for both people and books had to be consulted before they could decide what diet and treatment was best for each. The winged contraband had taken Nelly at her word, and flown away on the journey home. Little Rob was put in a large cage, where he could use his legs, yet not injure his lame wing. Forked-tongue lay under a wire cover, on sprigs of fennel, for the gardener said that snakes were fond of it. The Babes in the Wood were put to bed in one of the rush baskets, under a cotton-wool coverlet. Greenback, the beetle, found ease for his unknown aches in the warm heart of a rose, where he sunned himself all day. The Commodore was made happy in a tub of water, grass, and stones, and Mr.
Fuzz was put in a well-ventilated glass box to decide whether he would be a cocoon or not.
Tony had not been idle while his mistress was away, and he showed her the hospital garden he had made close by, in which were cabbage, nettle, and mignonette plants for the butterflies, flowering herbs for the bees, chick-weed and hemp for the birds, catnip for the pussies, and plenty of room left for whatever other patients might need. In the afternoon, while Nelly did her task at lint-picking, talking busily to Will as she worked, and interesting him in her affairs, Tony cleared a pretty spot in the grove for the burying-ground, and made ready some small bits of slate on which to write the names of those who died. He did not have it ready an hour too soon, for at sunset two little graves were needed, and Nurse Nelly shed tender tears for her first losses as she laid the motherless mice in one smooth hollow, and the gray-coated rebel in the other. She had learned to care for him already, and when she found him dead, was very glad she had been kind to him, hoping that he knew it, and died happier in her hospital than all alone in the shadowy wood.
The rest of Nelly's patients prospered, and of the many added afterward few died, because of Tony's skilful treatment and her own faithful care. Every morning when the day proved fair the little ambulance went out upon its charitable errand; every afternoon Nelly worked for the human sufferers whom she loved; and every evening brother Will read aloud to her from useful books, showed her wonders with his microscope, or prescribed remedies for the patients, whom he soon knew by name and took much interest in. It was Nelly's holiday; but, though she studied no lessons, she learned much, and unconsciously made her pretty play both an example and a rebuke for others.
At first it seemed a childish pastime, and people laughed. But there was something in the familiar words "sanitary," "hospital," and "ambulance" that made them pleasant sounds to many ears. As reports of Nelly's work went through the neighborhood, other children came to see and copy her design. Rough lads looked ashamed when in her wards they found harmless creatures hurt by them, and going out they said among themselves, "We won't stone birds, chase butterflies, and drown the girls' little cats any more, though we won't tell them so." And most of the lads kept their word so well that people said there never had been so many birds before as all that summer haunted wood and field.
Tender-hearted playmates brought their pets to be cured; even busy farmers had a friendly word for the small charity, which reminded them so sweetly of the great one which should never be forgotten; lonely mothers sometimes looked out with wet eyes as the little ambulance went by, recalling thoughts of absent sons who might be journeying painfully to some far-off hospital, where brave women waited to tend them with hands as willing, hearts as tender, as those the gentle child gave to her self-appointed task.
At home the charm worked also. No more idle days for Nelly, or fretful ones for Will, because the little sister would not neglect the helpless creatures so dependent upon her, and the big brother was ashamed to complain after watching the patience of these lesser sufferers, and merrily said he would try to bear his own wound as quietly and bravely as the "Commodore" bore his. Nelly never knew how much good she had done Captain Will till he went away again in the early autumn. Then he thanked her for it, and though she cried for joy and sorrow she never forgot it, because he left something behind him which always pleasantly reminded her of the double success her little hospital had won.
When Will was gone and she had prayed softly in her heart that God would keep him safe and bring him home again, she dried her tears and went away to find comfort in the place where he had spent so many happy hours with her. She had not been there before that day, and when she reached the door she stood quite still and wanted very much to cry again, for something beautiful had happened. She had often asked Will for a motto for her hospital, and he had promised to find her one. She thought he had forgotten it; but even in the hurry of that busy day he had found time to do more than keep his word, while Nelly sat indoors, lovingly brightening the tarnished buttons on the blue coat that had seen so many battles.
Above the roof, where the doves cooed in the sun, now rustled a white flag with the golden "S. C." shining on it as the wind tossed it to and fro. Below, on the smooth panel of the door, a skilful pencil had drawn two arching ferns, in whose soft shadow, poised upon a mushroom, stood a little figure of Nurse Nelly, and underneath it another of Dr.
Tony bottling medicine, with spectacles upon his nose. Both hands of the miniature Nelly were outstretched, as if beckoning to a train of insects, birds and beasts, which was so long that it not only circled round the lower rim of this fine sketch, but dwindled in the distance to mere dots and lines. Such merry conceits as one found there! A mouse bringing the tail it had lost in some cruel trap, a dor-bug with a shade over its eyes, an invalid butterfly carried in a tiny litter by long-legged spiders, a fat frog with gouty feet hopping upon crutches, Jenny Wren sobbing in a nice handkerchief, as she brought dear dead Cock Robin to be restored to life. Rabbits, lambs, cats, calves, and turtles, all came trooping up to be healed by the benevolent little maid who welcomed them so heartily.
Nelly laughed at these comical mites till the tears ran down her cheeks, and thought she never could be tired of looking at them. But presently she saw four lines clearly printed underneath her picture, and her childish face grew sweetly serious as she read the words of a great poet, which Will had made both compliment and motto:--
"He prayeth best who loveth best All things, both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all"
A FOX AND A RAVEN
By Rebecca Harding Davis
[_A raven, sitting high up on a limb, had a fine piece of cheese. He was just going to enjoy it, when along came Mr. Fox. Now the fox wanted the cheese, and he knew he could not catch the raven. So he began to flatter the raven's croaking voice, and to beg the raven for one of his "sweet songs." At last the poor raven, silly with flattery, opened his mouth to sing--when lo! the cheese dropped to the ground, and off ran the wily fox with the stolen treasure in his mouth. The raven flew away, and never was heard of again._]
Donee was a king's daughter. She had heard her father talk of the battles into which he had led his mighty warriors, and of how all the world that she knew had once been his, from the hills behind which the sun rose to the broad rushing river where it set. Now all of this account was strictly true.
But the king, as he talked, wore no clothes but a muddy pair of cotton trousers, and sat on a log in the sun, a pig rooting about his bare feet. Black Joe, going by, called him a lazy old red-skin; and that was true, too. But these differing accounts naturally confused Donee's mind. When the old chief was dead, however, there was an end of all talk of his warriors or battles. A large part of the land was left, though; a long stretch of river bottom and forests, with but very little swamp. Donee's brother, Oostogah, when he was in a good humor, planted and hoed a field of corn (as he had no wife to do it for him), and with a little fish and game, they managed to find enough to eat.
Oostogah and the little girl lived in a hut built of logs and mud, and, as the floor of it never had been scrubbed, the grass actually began to grow out of the dirt in the corners. There was a log smouldering on the hearth, where Donee baked cakes of pounded corn and beans in the ashes, and on the other side of the dark room was the heap of straw where she slept. Besides this, there were two hacked stumps of trees which served for chairs, and an iron pot out of which they ate; and there you have the royal plenishing of _that_ palace.
All the other Indians had long ago gone West. Donee had nothing and nobody to play with. She was as easily scared as a rabbit; yet sometimes, when Oostogah was gone for days together, she was so lonely that she would venture down through the swamp to peep out at the water-mill and the two or three houses which the white people had built. The miller, of all the white people, was the one that she liked best to watch, he was so big and round, and jolly; and one day, when he had met her in the path, he did not call her "Injun," or "red nigger," as the others did, but had said: "Where's your brother, my dear?" just as if she were white. She saw, sometimes, his two little girls and boy playing about the mill-door, and they were round and fat, and jolly, just like their father.
At last, one day Oostogah went down to the mill, and Donee plucked up her courage and followed him. When she was there hiding close behind the trough in which the horses were watered, so that nobody could see her, she heard the miller say to her brother: "You ought to go to work to clear your land, my lad. In two years there will be hundreds of people moving in here, and you own the best part of the valley."
Oostogah nodded. "The whole country once belonged to my people."
"That's neither here nor there," said the miller. "Dead chickens don't count for hatching. You go to work now and clear your land, and you can sell it for enough to give you and this little girl behind the trough an education. Enough to give you both a chance equal to any white children."
Oostogah nodded again, but said nothing. He was shrewd enough, and could work, too, when he was in the humor. "Come, Donee," he said.
But the miller's little Thad. and Jenny had found Donee behind the trough, and the three were making a nettle basket together, and were very well acquainted already.
"Let the child stay till you come back from fishing, Oostogah," said the miller.
So Donee staid all the afternoon. Jenny and Betty rolled and shouted, and could not talk fast enough with delight because they had this new little girl to play with, and Thad. climbed all the trees, as Jenny said, to "show off," and Betty tumbled into the trough head over heels and was taken out dripping.
Donee was very quiet, but it was to her as if the end of the world had come, all this was so happy and wonderful. She never had had anybody to play with before.
Then, when Betty was carried in to be dried and dressed, there was, too, the bright, cheerful room, with a lovely blue carpet on the floor, and a white spread on the bed with fringe, and red dahlias that shone in the sun, putting their heads in at the window. Betty's mother did not scold when she took her wet clothes off, but said some funny things which made them laugh. She looked at Donee now and then, standing with her little hands clasped behind her back.
"Does your mother _never_ wash or dress you, Donee?" said Betty.
"She is dead," said Donee.
Betty's mother did not say any more funny things after that. When she had finished dressing Betty, to the tying of her shoes, she called the little Indian girl up to her.
"What can you do?" she said. "Sew? Make moccasins?"
She had the pleasantest voice. Donee was not at all afraid. "I can sew. I can make baskets," she said. "I am going to make a basket for every one of you."
"Very well. You can have a tea-party, Jenny, out of doors." Then she opened a cupboard. "Here are the dishes," taking out a little box.
"And bread, jam, milk, sugar, and candy."
"Candy!" cried Betty, rushing out to tell Thad.
"Candy? Hooray!" shouted Thad.
For there are no shops out in that wild country where a boy can run for a stick of lemon or gumdrops every time he gets a penny. It was very seldom that Thad. or Betty could have a taste of those red and white "bull's eyes" which their mother now took out of the jar in the locked cupboard. They knew she brought it out to please the little Indian girl, whose own mother was dead.
Jenny set the table for the tea-party under a big oak. There was a flat place on one of the round roots that rose out of the moss, which was the very thing for a table. So there she spread the little white and gold plates and cups and saucers, with the meat dish (every bit as large as your hand), in the middle, full of candy. The milk, of course, was put in the pot for coffee, and set on three dead leaves to boil; and Jenny allowed Donee to fill the jam dishes herself, with her own hands. Donee could hardly get her breath as she did it.
When they were all ready they sat down. The sun shone, and the wind was blowing, and the water of the mill-race flashed and gurgled as it went by, and a song-sparrow perched himself on the fence close to them and sang, and sang, just as if he knew what was going on.
"He wants to come to the party!" said Betty, and then they all laughed. Donee laughed too.
The shining plates just fitted into the moss, and there was a little pitcher, the round-bellied part of which was covered with sand, while the handle and top were, Jenny said, of solid gold; that was put in the middle of all.
Donee did not think it was like fairy-land or heaven, because she had never in her life heard of fairy-land or heaven. She had never seen anything but her own filthy hut, with its iron pot and wooden spoons.
When it was all over, the children's mother (Donee felt as if she was her mother too) called her in, and took out of that same cupboard a roll of the loveliest red calico.
"Now, Donee," she said, "if you can make yourself a dress of this I will give you this box," and she opened a box, just like Jenny's.
Inside, packed in thin slips of paper, was a set of dishes; pure white, with the tiniest rose-bud in the middle of each; cups, saucers, meat-dish, coffee-pot, and all; and, below all, a pitcher, with sand on the brown bottom, but the top and handle of solid gold!
Donee went back to the hut, trotting along beside Oostogah, her roll of calico under her arm. The next day she cut it out into a slip and began to sew.
Oostogah was at work all day cutting down dead trees. When he came in at night, Donee said: "If you sold the land for much money, could we have a home like the miller's?"
Oostogah was as much astonished as if a chicken had asked him a question, but he said, "Yes."
"Would I be like Jenny and Betty?"
"You're a chief's daughter," grunted Oostogah.