OH! dear, oh! dear," sighed Rosy, "I'm the most unhappy little girl in all the world."
She was kneeling in a chair, gazing through the drawing-room window. In the street outside was drawn up a carriage, into which Nurse was packing all of Rosy's brothers and sisters. Clover was there, a boy of twelve, looking rather disgusted with his surroundings, and having his head nearly cut off by his first upright collar. Violet, Rosy's twin sister, was there, dressed in the sweetest new pale blue camel's-hair, and taking great care to turn the skirt of it up over her shoulders as she nestled into her corner of the landau. (Rosy thought with a pang of her own new dress, the double of Violet's, hanging upstairs in the wardrobe, in a melancholy way!) Jonquil was there, the chubby, golden-haired, big-eyed brother, aged three. And last of all was dear wee Honeysuckle, like a bundle of lace and flannel in Marie's arms; while old Nurse's spectacles could hardly be seen through the mass of sash-ends and fluted petticoats, and scarlet stockings, and velvet breeches, and flying locks of hair completely filling the roomy carriage. No one could doubt that the children were going to a party, even if they had not announced that fact to everybody within ear-shot by the chatter of their busy little tongues!
At last all were settled, and the carriage rolled away. "Good-by, Rosy," "Good-by, Rosy!" came up in a shrill chorus; and, the last Rosy's tear-dimmed eyes could see of them, hands and handkerchiefs were waving a farewell to the sister left behind.
Then it was that Rosy's fortitude completely forsook her, and she dropped sobbing into the chair. It was a bitter disappointment, for the party was to be given by their aunt in honor of these children, and, in addition to Punch and Judy, magic, and a candy-bag, they were promised a huge bran-pie, full of delightful hidden presents. Rosy had suffered from a pretty bad sore-throat the night before, and the doctor had forbidden her going out. It is no use for grown people to say, dear children, these disappointments of yours don't matter much, for they do. They seem as high as mountains in your path, and I fully sympathize with you all, and especially with little weeping Rosy.
So thought her mamma, evidently, for she came into the room just then, and picked the little bunch of blue serge and cardinal ribbons up in her arms, and sat down with it in a low chair by the fire.
"Boo-hoo!" said Rosy, breaking out afresh when she felt mamma's kisses on her hair and wet cheeks. Mamma said very little, but by and by the little girl began to feel comforted, in spite of herself. You know how it is, dears! First, you stop roaring and moan, then your eyes are kissed dry, then you burrow your heads down and sigh, then you lie quite still for a little while—and at last, after blowing your noses in an heroic way, you are ready to laugh again!
All this happened in Rosy's case, and for awhile she sat talking, until her mamma was called away to attend to some household matter. By that time Rosy was quite content to be tucked into a corner of the comfortable sofa, covered with a down quilt, and left to gaze into the depths of a woodfire, burning gently (for it had passed the spitting, spluttering stage), upon two great old-fashioned brass andirons with claw-feet and queer round bald heads.
Around Rosy's couch was drawn a gay Japanese screen; before the fire was spread a great black bear-skin rug, and on either side of it stood a tall green porcelain jar. Clover always said these vases were like the ones in which Morgiana hid the Forty Thieves, and the children had more than once stuffed baby Honeysuckle into one of them to keep her out of mischief during what Nurse called their "rampagin's to split one's head."
Over her mamma's writing-table, low enough for Rosy to look into the very heart of it, hung a picture in a broad gold frame. The picture was of a chestnut wood in Brittany, and standing in the shadow of a drooping bough was a little girl of about ten, her own age. One of the little peasant maiden's arms was clasped around the neck of a big dog, harnessed to a cart of vegetables. Under the other arm she held a fat goose with a dangling neck. Overhead, the sky was blue and the leaves seemed to be rustling in a summer wind. Around the feet of the tiny nut-brown maiden, with her odd high cap, grew tall heather and feathery ferns, with here and there a clump of flame-shaped lilies. When snow was on the ground outside Rosy always loved to gaze at this pretty scene, and to fancy herself stepping over the frame to have a chat about vegetables, and a ramble in the forest with Annette.
Rosy's eyes wandered from one object to another in
this pleasant room. Fluff, her mother's Skye terrier,
curled up on her feet and fell asleep. The clock upon
the mantel ticked softly, Fluff snored contentedly,
little particles of burning wood pattered into the bed
of glowing embers below. Even the familiar rumble
of the street cars along the thoroughfare at the end of
their block seemed more subdued than usual; and
Rosy lay, never stirring, until—she found herself, without
the least warning, slipping down through one of
her mother's great porcelain jars, into Japan! Fluff
woke up, and dashed to the rescue, with his fierce
little "Rah!" of a bark; but there was nothing to be
seen of Miss Rosy except the tip of a scarlet bow, with
which Nurse was wont to adorn the summit of her
It was a town where the houses looked as if they had been built for big dolls to live in. Houses with sliding walls, doors, and galleries made all of paper, that in two minutes you could take apart and pack up as you do a box of Crandall's blocks. The streets were honeycombed with quaint booths, and crowded with human beings going in and out of them like bees. The carriages were babies' perambulators, drawn by a tandem team of brown-skinned men, wearing a single garment each, and umbrella hats.
There were no horses to be seen, but the cows wore blue cotton wrappers and shoes made of straw. Men, women, and children, at first sight, seemed to be dressed alike, all clattering around on high clogs, stooping painfully; and the funny little bald-headed babies were either carried pick-a-back by their mammas, or else were tucked in the breast of their fathers' loose wrappers, together with pipes, tobacco pouches, books, and a variety of other useful articles.
Rosy looked about her in astonishment, till a girl came up and saluted her with solemn politeness, inviting her to a party, which was just about to begin. "You had better have your hair dressed first," the girl said, "and I will lend you a decent frock."
"Very well," said Rosy, thinking fondly of the blue camel's-hair in the wardrobe at home; "of course, this old every-day serge won't do for a party."
The girl took her to the shop of a female barber,
who made Rosy kneel down before a mirror of polished
steel, and parted her hair in two or three long manes,
which were stiffened with bandoline, and tied with
"Tut, tut," she said, angrily; "what were her parents thinking of to let them grow like this?" And without more ado Rosy's eyebrows were shaved off, and her face and neck were daubed with a thick white paste. Her under lip had a patch of red paint, and her teeth were stained with some horrid black mixture. Then she went with the Japanese girl into a paper house, where the party was to be held, and the girl lent her a loose silk gown, tied round the waist by a wide sash of pink crêpe. On her feet were put foot mittens of white cloth, with a separate place for the big toe, and high lacquered clogs.
"How can I walk?" said Rosy, tottering around when she was finally equipped in her narrow uncomfortable garments.
"Sh-h! the company is arriving!" said her hostess; and as there was no furniture, not even a chair, Rosy wondered where the company would sit. The company solved this difficulty by sitting on the floor; and then trays were handed around, containing all sorts of wonderful sweetmeats, flowers and fruits in lovely colors, with conserved fruits, sugared beans, and candy fish, animals, and birds. Each dainty was more tempting than the one before, and Rosy found the loose front of her Japanese gown the very thing for a "party-pocket," if any of you know what that means!
Next came games; "Lady-go-to-see," "Sick man-and-doctor," Alphabet-cards, and Proverbs; and then, more sweetmeats. Pleasant as it was, a sudden stop was put to the entertainment, by a commotion, everybody seizing hold of another, all with frightened faces. Without warning, an earthquake came and turned the house upside down. Everybody fell out on the ground but Rosy, who flew up in the air, becoming entangled in the tail of a huge man-kite, carried along by the wind at a fearful rate of speed.
Rosy thought this much more exciting than any coasting down hill she had ever tried; and she flew up, up, until the tail of the kite gave a flop, tossing her through a rift in the clouds. There she was, passing again through the bottom of the porcelain-jar, and in another moment she had landed in the very centre of the bear-skin hearth-rug.
Rosy was just getting her breath, and wondering how she came to have her hair hanging in the usual tawny stream, when, to her great surprise, the bear-skin began to move.
"Hold on tight there. We are off," it said, in a low growling tone, though not unkindly. "Want to go to a party, hey? Well, I'll see what we can do for you in my part of the world."
"Really you take one so unpleasantly by surprise," exclaimed poor Rosy, as she felt herself again setting forth on an airy journey. "It is so cold here, I wish you had let me stop for my seal-skin jacket."
"Don't talk about seal-skins, child. We are going where you will see enough of them. Ho! but it's grand there, up among the icebergs and the everlasting snow-drifts, where the frozen lakes gleam like red jewels in the light of the sun that never sets! Merry sports you'll see between my brothers and sisters!"
"But I should be dreadfully afraid of them," began Rosy, trembling. "I have never met any bears outside of cages;" but the words were frozen on her tongue, and some tears coming into her eyes rolled in little round icicles into her lap.
Now they came to a world of ice and snow. Even the fir-trees were no longer seen. Clinging to the rocks was a little rough moss, which served for reindeers' food. All else was chill and glittering—the sky arched with radiant pink that seemed to palpitate. Far below them was a polar sea, locking in chill embrace a lonely ship, her shrouds sheathed in ice, her ribs cracked against the huge silvery bulk of an iceberg, on whose jagged side she leaned despairingly—no sign of life on board. Rosy shuddered and shut her eyes, only opening them again when the bear-skin set her down at the side of an odd little hut, built on a barren point of land above the ice-bound water.
This hut was made of blocks of ice, the chinks filled in with moss, and snow-caked over all. On top was a hole whence issued a faint curl of smoke, and out of an opening, somewhere, crawled a funny Esquimaux lady, apparently as broad as she was long. She welcomed Rosy politely, and took her in to the fire, a civility Rosy thought she could have done without. The whole family was collected there, with some guests invited in Rosy's honor, who had come in sledges drawn by dogs over the snow. The dogs also were within, and half a dozen children. It made Rosy think of the worms in Clover's can the days when her brother went a-fishing, so closely packed and squirming were her new-found friends. The place was full of smoke, and smelled of fish oil. The feast consisted of frozen whale's blubber, handed around to be gnawed by the company, and of salt fish dried without cooking, with strips of reindeer meat. Rosy tried to be very agreeable to everybody present, but when they brought her the baby to kiss, she almost fainted! It was the greasiest little thing, without a stitch of clothes on! By-and-by, sleep overpowered the traveller, and Mrs. Esquimaux laid a skin before the fire, offering her, for a pillow, what do you think? that self-same greasy baby!
As this ceremony is an especial compliment to a stranger among the Esquimaux, no one can refuse it; and Rosy, with much compunction, laid her head down on the poor little thing, who took it all as cheerfully as possible.
Scarcely had the weary traveller closed her eyes, when she opened them again on the lounge in the drawing-room at home!
There, looking down on her with a friendly smile, was the little Breton maiden in the chestnut wood.
"Come to my party," Rosy heard her whisper; and, charmed with such a pretty new playmate, she stretched out her hands. The little French girl dropped the goose from under her arm, and leaned out of her gold frame to help Rosy, who, in two or three steps was safely beside her, treading down the tall heather, and stirring the butterflies from their haunts among the flowers. How green, and cool, and sweet it was, under the arching boughs. Far as the eye could reach, on every side, were leaves rustling in the fragrant air; and the trunks of the ancient trees were gray and hoar as the beards of the old Druids who once haunted them. Annette, for so the peasant maid was called, told Rosy many strange and interesting tales about this forest as they walked on, followed by the faithful dog dragging his cart of vegetables so carefully that he did not need a word or look to guide him.
"Ours is one of the oldest inhabited parts of France," said the girl, proudly; "I can tell you stories about every tree and rock and hill in the country-side, and I will, if you like to hear them; but we must make haste to reach the market now, before the sun rises high enough to drink the dew from my vegetables. I was up before day to pick them, and my father has promised me that, if I sell all, I shall have a party in the glen. Only think! Not to work in the field all the afternoon—and to have as many chestnuts as we choose, a whole loaf of brown bread, and perhaps—if the step-mother is good humored—a slice of seed-cake!"
Rosy thought this a very poor sort of a party; but she found Annette such good company that it seemed no hardship to trudge along the hot and dusty road beside her, when they emerged from the shelter of the wood. The two girls laughed and made merry until they reached the market town, and there the good dog came to a halt, while Annette arranged her cress and lettuces and beans and potatoes in tempting rows upon the stall—standing beside them with such a patient smiling face, that many passers-by were induced to buy of her. The fat goose went home in the basket of a fat housekeeper, and left in his place a pile of silver pieces. So, Annette and Rosy soon turned back to trudge again the dusty high-road, talking of the party they were to have in the glen that afternoon.
Annette's home, which the two tired little travellers reached at last, was a quaint cottage, the steep moss-grown roof looking twice the height of its walls. Over the door grew a twisted pear-tree, and all the ground around it, excepting the garden patch in a sheltered spot behind, was one waving mass of heather, strewn with gray boulders of mossy rock. Rosy gave a little cry of delight.
"Why, it is the sweetest place," she cried. "It is like a bird's nest, Annette. How happy you must be here."
Annette was about to answer, when out of the door came a cross step-mother, who began scolding as soon as she saw the girls, snatched the pouch of silver money from Annette's side, ordered her to the right and left, and then, tired as the poor child was, harnessed her to the cart beside the dog, and made her draw a heavy pile of linen to the brook, where she was at once set to work to help her step-mother in the family washing. Rosy, half-starved by her long fast, was glad to share Annette's meagre dinner of brown bread and a handful of boiled chestnuts, eaten under a tree by the brookside. Annette ventured to remind her step-mother of the promised party, and, for answer, received a smart box on the ear.
"Is it a princess I have got to do my work, perchance?" said the cross old thing. "Thy father is far enough off in the field, not here to spoil thee, by luck; so do thou and that idle girl yonder set to work and finish washing the linen. That's party enough for trapesing girls, in my mind!"
So Rosy, too, was forced into service, and all through the long afternoon she toiled with aching limbs. When night came, she and Annette were glad to seek a straw bed in a tiny roof-chamber and cry themselves to sleep.
"Never mind," said Annette, patiently; "to-morrow, perhaps, she may be kinder, and after we have worked all the forenoon in the field, who knows but we may have our party yet?"
Rosy remembered nothing more, except opening her eyes full upon the hearth in her mother's drawing-room, where she was immediately addressed by one of the old-fashioned brass andirons.
"I should just like to show you what a party was in my time," it said, in a cracked, high-pitched voice. "We, sister Peggy and I, belonged, as you know, to your mother's grandmother—a good old Revolutionary stock—and we lived in the old house up yonder in Salem, Massachusetts, until your mother took it into her fanciful head to fetch us here. I should like to know what we have in common with that little fiddle-faddle Dresden china clock and shepherdesses upon the mantel-piece! However, I won't talk about my grievances, for sister Peggy always says that it is in very bad taste, and sister Peggy knows. We lived in the room where your grandmother was born, my dear, and her first cap was fitted upon sister Peggy's knob——"
"Will she never stop to take breath," Rosy wondered. "I am dying to ask her a question. What's your name?" she suddenly called out, so abruptly as to make the old andiron jump, and let fall a broken brand upon the hearth.
"Dear me, child, how you fluttered me!" it said, reprovingly. "I am sister Polly, of course, as you would have heard in due time. Sister Peggy always says that little girls should be seen and not heard, and sister Peggy knows—Where was I—Oh! when your grandmother grew old enough to invite her little friends to share her hospitality, the boys and girls would arrive at about three o'clock in the afternoon. The girls wore plain print gowns, and muslin aprons edged with tambour work. Instead of that insane mop of hair you sport, with a bow in the middle, looking for the world and all like your terrier, Fluff, they had decent mob caps. Their hands were covered with mittens, and each one earned a bag with a piece of white seam (or plain stitching), or else a sampler frame. How pretty it was to see them sitting down to their work for awhile! Then the tea-table was spread, with flowered china cups and plates, and shining silver, muffins, crumpets, sliced ham, home-made preserves and cream, and waffles strewn with cinnamon and sugar——"
"You make my mouth water," said Rosy.
"All this took place by five o'clock," said sister Polly, "and afterward the children had a good game of 'blind-man's-buff,' or 'hunt-the-slipper'—and a handful of nuts with a big red apple, to stuff in each of their pockets upon going home. I remember a very little party your mamma had once, when she was a child——"
"Do you? Tell me about it, please," said Rosy, eagerly, for nothing was ever so enchanting to those children as stories about their mamma in her youth.
"She was just getting over the measles, and had been very much petted during her convalescence. Your grandmother promised her, in reward for taking a rather nasty dose of medicine, that she should have her little cousins from next door, to drink tea on a trunk. This was an especial treat to your mamma. A large flat-topped trunk served as table for the little girls and their dollies. On it were spread the china doll tea-things, and when they did not suffice in size or numbers, leaves from the grape-vine above the dining-room porch, were also heaped with goodies. Those children were satisfied with broken bits of peppermint stick, ginger-nuts, wee biscuit, lemonade for tea, and in the centre of the table a dish of horse-cakes."
"Oh, I know!" said Rosy, with much interest. "Mamma has often told us about horse-cakes, and the funny little old shop where she used to buy them for a cent apiece. They had currants for eyes, and the children never knew whether to begin to eat at the head first or the tail——"
"Exactly," said sister Polly. "Well, as I was saying, four little girls in clean white birds'-eye pinafores assembled around the trunk-party, your mamma at the head, to pour out the lemonade tea. Each guest had a dolly in her lap, and your mamma had twins on hers. I think the difficulty began by her insisting that the twins should have a double share of all the good things, which the guests, with some warmth, disputed. At any rate, it is a sad tale to tell you, but a true one; a quarrel set in, and what should the hostess do, but burst into tears, declare that her company were mean horrid things, and then, dragging at the table-cloth, whisk the entire contents of the tea-table upon the floor!"
"Oh!" said Rosy, "did my mamma do that? I don't believe a word of it! You are nothing but an old tattle-tale, sister Polly, and I don't believe sister Peggy is any better!"
Scarcely had Rosy uttered these disrespectful words, when the enraged sister Polly and sister Peggy flew out upon her from the fireplace. Seizing her in their brassy claws, they shook the little girl fiercely, bumping her head first on one side, then on the other, between their knobs.
Rosy screamed for help, and heard in return a merry peal of laughter. She felt a warm shower of kisses on her face; and, opening her eyes, saw Clover and Violet, Jonquil and the baby, mamma and the nurses, standing in a laughing circle around her couch, while Fluff nearly barked his head off in the general excitement.
"Rosy, you had the funniest nightmare!" said Violet; "see here, what a lovely bracelet was in the bran-pie for you, and we've all saved you some of our bonbons."
"It was rather a bully Punch and Judy," remarked Clover, patronizingly. "That is, for the little ones, you know; I've seen such lots of 'em."
"Punch said, 'Doody, Doody, bing up de baby,'" squeaked happy little Jonquil, capering about.
Baby Honeysuckle had gone to sleep, after her first party.
Rosy jumped up, and kissed everybody around twice.
"Dear knows I've had enough of parties," she declared joyfully; but nobody knew what she meant!