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New Free Read: Sadie’s Journey

16 Oct

Some of Isabella’s stories contain obvious themes or lessons she wanted to impart to readers.

The lesson in this month’s Pansy story is much more subtle. “Sadie’s Journey” first appeared in The Pansy magazine in 1893, and probably inspired many mothers to have earnest conversations with their children about the dangers of the outside world.

An added bonus: The story included a charming wood-cut illustration of Sadie, which you’ll see below at the end of Part I.

Part I

“It is so very warm,” said Aunt Sarah, stopping in her work of buttoning Sadie’s skirt to wipe the perspiration from her face. “Cannot Sadie have just this short-sleeved apron on, instead of a dress?”

“Why, it is very short, dear,” said Sadie’s mamma. “Think how she would look if anybody but ourselves saw her.”

“Nobody will,” returned Aunt Sarah. “It is too warm for people to come out here this afternoon, and she will stay this side of the gate, won’t you, Sadie?”

Sadie promptly promised, and the little muslin slip which now did duty as an apron was fastened to hide her pretty neck from the sun, leaving her arms bare; then she set her little old sun-hat on the back of her head, and proceeded to coaxing Aunt Louise to go out with her after “f’owers.”

“Louise is Sadie’s slave,” the other aunties said, laughing, as Sadie led her off in triumph; but they every one knew that they were slaves in the same way. Aunt Louise wandered on and on, beguiled by Sadie’s wishes. Several times she proposed going back to the house to wait until the sun dropped lower, but Sadie always wanted to go “just a weenie teeny bit further.” At last Aunt Louise said, with decision in her voice, “Now, pet, I really must go back. I cannot endure this heat any longer; I’m sure I wish I were only five, if it would give me as much energy as you have. You may stay out here by yourself, and pick all the ‘f’owers’ you want, only you won’t go out of the gate, will you? Remember you are not dressed to see people.”

“I’ll ’member,” said Sadie, and in a few minutes she was alone in the great lovely glen. No prettier spot within miles and miles could be found than the McMartins had chosen for their summer home. The house, a wide, old-fashioned rambling affair, although it was set on a hill, was almost hidden from view by great old trees; and before and behind it, and on either side, stretched the beautiful hills, and valleys, and trees, and flowers, and vines, and grasses, and all lovely things. People envied the McMartins this beautiful old-fashioned home. “So quiet,” they said, “and beautiful; it is like being in the depths of the country, yet they are only an hour’s ride from town.”

Left to herself, Sadie roved from flower to flower, going deeper into the glen every moment, until suddenly she turned and followed a winding path which she knew led in a round-about fashion to the lower gate. She had heard the sound of a hand-organ in the distance. The road from town was too hilly to tempt hand-organs in that direction very often, and Sadie felt that she could not afford to lose the treat. She thought of going for Aunt Louise to keep her company, but decided that she was too far from the house for that; the hand-organ might move on before she could get to it. She made all the speed she could over the winding path, and presently reached the lower gate, only to see the “music man” disappearing around the corner.

“He must be going to play for the Benhams,” said Sadie to herself. The Benhams were the McMartins’ nearest neighbors. They lived in the large house where the roads forked, about a quarter of a mile away. Sadie paused at the gate. She “’membered” her promise, but it was really going to be very hard to keep it. She peeped through the bars of the gate, and argued it out with herself.

“The reason Auntie did not want me to go outside the gate was because I wasn’t dressed to see people, but she wouldn’t mind a music man; music men never care how folks are dressed, and there isn’t a single anybody else to be seen on the road. I wouldn’t go all the way to the Benhams, ’course not! I’ll keep away back where folks can’t see me at all, and only listen to the music. That won’t be not keeping my pwomise, ’cause if peoples don’t see me they won’t care.”

Having reached this conclusion Sadie stood on tiptoe to unfasten the gate, and slipping through it walked briskly along the road toward the “music man.” He had seated himself by the side of the road to rest, and also to have a talk with a friend who appeared just then and sat down beside him. As Sadie neared the two she kept going slower, and wondering why the “music man” did not play his music. What if he should play a time just for her? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to have happen?

But it did not happen. The two men had started on together before Sadie reached them, and they turned down a lane before they reached the Benhams’ grounds. So much the better; she could hear the music without seeing any people, for Sadie felt sure that no neighbors lived down this lane. On and on she trudged until her little feet were tired, and until she did not know where she was. The lane had led into a meadow, which the two men had crossed, she following; then from the meadow they slipped through a break in the fence, Sadie following, and crossed a long, sunny field, then struck into a wood which was cool and inviting, but there was no music. At last they stopped to rest again, and Sadie came very close to them, then stopped with a long-drawn sigh. If she only dared to ask the man to make some music just for her.

Some movement which the little feet made just then among the rustling twigs startled the men; they turned quickly and stared at her, then at each other.

“Halloo!” said the music man. “What is all this?”

“More than I know,” said the other. “She ain’t a spirit, is she, from t’other world?” Then they laughed in a way which half-frightened Sadie; she could not have told why, for she was not easily frightened.

“Halloo!” said the man again. “Where did you come from, little Miss?” Sadie had been brought up to answer questions politely, so she explained matters as well as she could.

“Here’s a lark,” said the music man; “she must belong to that big house on the hill.” And while Sadie looked up into the sky to see the “lark” the two men put their heads close together and talked low. Presently the man who had no music said to her, “Look here, young one, do you know your way home?”

“Not quite,” said Sadie timidly; for not finding the lark, she had looked about her and discovered that she was in a strange world, and did not know which way to turn.

“I should think not,” he said. “You’re a long ways from home, an awful long ways, and a dangerous ways. There’s bears in these woods, and snakes, and I don’t know what all. You needn’t be scared, though; if you’ll keep close to me, and don’t make no noise, I’ll see that you get home safe and sound.”

* * * *

In the wide old-fashioned hall of the McMartin home Aunt Louise fanned herself and told how warm it was out of doors, and how wonderful it was that little Sadie did not seem to feel it. Presently she roused from a ten minutes’ nap to say, “I wonder if I ought not to go for Sadie? She won’t wander beyond the grounds, will she?”

“Oh, no!” answered mamma and Aunt Sarah in the same breath. “She promised she wouldn’t go outside the gates.”

“Besides, the child isn’t dressed, you know,” added Aunt Annie. “She would know better than to go on the street in that rig.”

Ten, twenty minutes passed, a half-hour, an hour. Then mamma said, “I wonder at Sadie for staying out alone all this time. She is generally too fond of company for that.”

Then up rose Aunt Louise. “I am going in search of her,” she said. “Why, it is after five o’clock; I did not think it was so late.”

Up and down the winding paths she wandered, calling “Sadie,” “Baby,” “Pet,” all the sweet names which belonged to the child, and receiving no reply. Then came mamma and joined in the search, then the other aunties, and finally Uncle Wells himself; but no Sadie was to be found.

Picking f’owers.

.

Part II

Young Dr. Tremayne swung himself on to the train as it halted at Riverton. The hot day was over, and the air was quite chill. The doctor shivered a little as he took his seat, and told himself that a light overcoat would not be unpleasant. Then he wondered if he would find orders at his office which would take him out for the night, and decided to get a little nap while the train was running into the city. But he didn’t get it. Instead, he sat up straight and looked at a curious couple who were but two seats in front of him.

The man was a young fellow, hardly old enough to be called a man, and perhaps too ugly and shabby-looking to deserve that name; but on the seat beside him, sitting bolt upright and looking about her with half-frightened, half-defiant eyes, was a mouse of a girl, not dressed for the chilly evening; not dressed at all as one would expect a child to be who was in such company. She had on a little white slip, and a white sun hat. Her bare arms looked cold and uncomfortable, and her entire face expressed misery if ever a child’s did. The fellow tried to draw her toward him, and the child resisted. She was crying quietly, and once when the man bent over her and tried to say something, she shook herself, and said, “Let me be.” Then Dr. Tremayne, who had meantime quietly slipped into the next seat, heard him say distinctly:

“Look a-here, little Missy, if you behave yourself and do as I tell you, you won’t come to no harm; but if you make a fuss and get me into trouble, I’ll wallop you within an inch of your life, and you’ll be sorry for it as long as you live. Do you understand that?”

Whether she understood all the words or not, she was evidently frightened. She drew farther away from him, and shuddered, and choked back her sobs.

Dr. Tremayne leaned forward and touched the fellow’s arm. “Who have you there, my man?” he asked, nodding his head toward the child.

“It’s my sister’s girl,” he said quickly. “I found her out in the country; ran away from home, you see, and I’m taking her back.”

The little girl listened intently; she turned her head around so she could see the doctor’s face, then she spoke with eager haste:

“It isn’t true; I just went out of the lower gate to hear the music man, and I didn’t know just which road to go home; and he said he would take me home, and he isn’t. I don’t live on the cars.”

The man nodded his head in response to this story. “She followed a hand-organ, you see,” he said, “and got lost. Now she thinks she knows the way home better than I do; and she doesn’t want to get there, any way, ’cause she knows she will get whipped for running away.”

“I shan’t!” said the child, in a passion of grief and rage. “My mamma doesn’t whip me, and I didn’t run away. I just went down the road where nobody need see me, because I wasn’t dressed up, and you tooked me the wrong way. If I had only kept my pwomise!” With this the little girl’s heart utterly failed her, and she cried aloud.

“Shut up!” said the man sharply. “You needn’t bellow and get all the folks looking at you, just because you have been a bad girl, and run away, Your folks will tend to you when I get you home.”

“Do you live in town?” asked Dr. Tremayne, and a few minutes afterward he went to the rear end of the car and motioned the conductor to him. “There is something wrong up there, I fear,” he said, nodding toward the place where the man and child sat. “The fellow says she is his sister’s child, but I don’t believe it. It is hardly possible for a child with such a face to belong to a man of that stamp. The little one is evidently afraid of him; she says she went out of the gate to hear the ‘music man,’ and did not know the way back, and this man promised to take her home, and didn’t do it.”

“Is that so?” said the conductor. “There was a report of a child lost brought into the station just above Riverton. The country was in an uproar, the man said, but they seemed to think she was lost in the woods. She belonged to the people who have taken the old Singleton place. Do you know the spot?”

“Perfectly,” said Dr. Tremayne. “I believe this is the lost child, and the fellow has made off with her in the hope of securing a large reward.”

All right,” said the conductor; “pity to have him disappointed. We’ll help him to secure his reward, if that proves to be the case. Keep an eye on him, and if he undertakes to leave the train at the next station we’ll stop him; meantime I’ll send a message to Policeman Burns to be on hand when we get in town.”

Dr. Tremayne went back and seated himself behind the rough-looking man, who now began to watch him suspiciously.

“What is your name, my little girl?” he asked.

“Sadie,” said the child promptly.

“And whose little girl are you?”

“Mamma’s and papa’s, only now papa is away across the ocean, and I’m Uncle Wells’ little girl until he gets back. Oh, and I’m Aunt Sarah’s little girl, too, and Aunt Louise’s most of all, ’cause she’s the best auntie.”

“And do you live in the big city?”

“When the snow comes I do,” said Sadie; “but I live away out in the country now, where the glen is, you know, and the wiver. Don’t you know where our house is?” she asked, with a sudden pleading sound in her voice, “and couldn’t you take me home ’stead of this man, ’cause I like you best?”

The man laughed a coarse, hateful-sounding laugh. “I call that cool,” he said. “She’s the greatest young one to go on that you ever heard of; plays she’s Queen Victoria sometimes, you know, and she lives in all sorts of places, according to her notion. Here we are, young one,” he added, as the train whistled for the station. “Now you’ll know pretty soon what your mother thinks of your notions.”

“I thought you said she lived in the city?” said Dr. Tremayne. “This is Brierwood, two miles out.”

“I know, but we branch off here and wait for the accommodation that goes in at the other depot. Come on, quick! The train won’t wait for you more than a week.”

“No,” said Sadie firmly, resisting his attempts to pull her from the seat. “I don’t want to go with you; that isn’t the way home; I didn’t go on the cars to the music man’s. It is just through the woods; you don’t know the way, and you are a bad, naughty man. Won’t you take me home?”

This last sentence was spoken to Dr. Tremayne, who had risen and bent over the child, putting a protecting arm about her.

“You would better not wait for the accommodation tonight,” he said to the man, who was angrily pulling at Sadie’s dress. “It will not be along in more than an hour; you might better take an across-town omnibus than to keep a child waiting in this dress at the station. The evening is chilly.”

And at that moment the train, which had barely halted, sped on.

“There!” said the man, throwing himself back in his seat in great ill-humor. “Now we can’t get off. If I don’t make you pay for this night’s work I’ll know the reason.” This with a threatening shake of his head to Sadie; then to the doctor he said: “Seems to me you meddle with my business a good deal more than is necessary. Let the young one alone.”

“Oh, I’m keeping her warm,” said the doctor, as he wrapped his arms about her, Sadie clinging with all her strength. “The night is very chilly after such a warm day. Little people always take to me.”

“It’s precious little attention I ever pay to them,” said the man sullenly; “but I thought my sister would be howling if I didn’t bring this little plague back; and I’ve gone miles out of my way to do it.”

As the train steamed into the city depot he sprang to his feet again and reached out his arms for Sadie, who had dropped her head on Dr. Tremayne’s shoulder, and was lying perfectly still.

“Come along now,” he said, “and be quick about it.” But he felt at that moment a tap on his shoulder, and turned to meet the keen eyes of Policeman Burns, who had been for some seconds standing on the platform of the rear car, listening to the conductor’s story.

“Halloo, Jack!” he said to the man, who cowed before him. “I didn’t expect to meet you here. When did you adopt a sister? Just come with me, and I’ll give you a bed tonight.”

“Now, Doctor,” said the conductor, as they watched the ill-looking man go off with Policeman Burns, “you have a baby on your hands if she doesn’t prove to be the right one.”

“I’ll take my chances,” said the doctor, smiling, “and I thank you heartily for your help. Let me see, when is the next train for the Glen due? Shall I have time to get some sort of wrap for this little one?”

* * * *

It was Aunt Louise who was leaning over the garden fence two hours later when Dr. Tremayne came with swift strides down the road, Sadie carefully wrapped in a great woolly shawl sleeping peacefully in his arms. All the family, and all the neighbors for miles around, were scouring the country in search of the lost darling. As for Aunt Louise, she haunted the garden, though certainly there could be no hope of finding the child there; but it was there she had last been seen, and it seemed to the half-crazed auntie that if she hovered about the spot where she left the child, she would be more likely to see her again. What she said as Dr. Tremayne halted before her with his burden; how he told his story in few words; how she snatched the sleeping baby from him, almost smothering it with kisses, though Sadie clung sleepily to the doctor, and murmured: “I don’t want to;” how they sent the news far and wide, and had the doctor in the house to tell the wonderful and frightful and blessed story in detail; how they sat up until nearly morning listening, and talking, and crying, and laughing, and rejoicing, you must imagine, as there is not room to tell.

One queer question of Sadie’s you ought to hear. It was several weeks after it all happened. The family were gathered in the large, cheery parlor, and Dr. Tremayne, who had some way come to think of himself as one of the family, sat near Aunt Louise talking eagerly.

Suddenly Sadie turned from the young cousins with whom she was visiting, and ran over to her favorite auntie with her question.

“Aunt Louise, Willie says he guesses you are glad I got lost and stoled. You aren’t, are you?”

A perfect chorus of laughter greeted her, in the midst of which Sadie, wondering, begged for her answer; and Aunt Louise, hiding her blushing face with the child’s curls, said:

“I am glad you were found and brought back, darling.”

What did you think of “Sadie’s Journey”? Do you think Isabella was using the story to convey a specific lesson? Or do you think she wrote it simply to entertain children (and their mothers and aunts)?

New Free Read: Through the Woods

14 Aug

This month’s free read is “Through the Woods,” a short story that first appeared in The Pansy magazine in 1889.

When Helen and Winnie set out for an overnight visit with a beloved aunt, they anticipate a fun time and a safe journey. But it only takes one wrong turn to change their fun to fright, and one act of kindness to teach them a valuable lesson.

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Or simply scroll down to read the story here on the blog:

PART I.

IT was the gray pony that Helen wanted to take. He was such a wise horse that there was no need in thinking about the trains all the time. Besides, he could follow those bewildering windings through the woods as well as though he had laid out the roads himself, if indeed they had been laid out at all. But just as she was thinking of asking Phillip to harness for her she heard Mary’s voice saying in a tone of authority, “Stand over!” and looking from the window saw she was harnessing the gray pony to the high carriage.

“Where are you going?” she called, and Mary answered promptly that she was going to Lake Minnow to call on the Allen girls.

“Oh, dear!” said Helen, “I promised mamma to take those rose-cuttings to Aunt Hattie this afternoon, and I wanted Gray myself.”

Mary was harnessing Gray.

“Why can’t you take Brownie?” said Mary. “There’s Phillip driving into the yard with him now; he will be ready to go as soon as he has had his dinner.”

“Well,” said Helen after a minute, “I s’pose I’ll have to do that. I hate to drive Brownie because he doesn’t know the roads; and he thinks he does and keeps turning where he ought not. You have to watch him every minute.”

Mary laughed, and said that was good discipline for Helen; that she was too much inclined to dream in the daytime. And then she climbed into her carriage and drove away.

Half an hour afterward Helen drove out in the phaeton. She was going to call for her dear friend Winnie Chester who was boarding at the hotel. Under the seat was her little hand bag with all needed articles for the night, because she often stayed at Aunt Hattie’s all night, and Winnie had promised the very next time she went with her to stay and enjoy the new milk from Aunt Hattie’s cow and the cream muffins she was sure to make.

It was a lovely afternoon. The ride was thoroughly enjoyed by both girls. Brownie trotted along briskly, although the roads were sandy, and made just the right turnings, as if he had heard and resented Helen’s complaint about him.

Aunt Hattie’s was reached in good time and in safety, but alas! for the plans about new milk and cream muffins. Aunt Hattie and Uncle Henry were both away from home. They had gone to town for the day. The rose-cuttings had to be consigned to Jake, and the two girls stayed only long enough for Brownie to get a drink of water; for the roads were heavy, and twilight fell early in this part of the country. They rode along in a leisurely manner, chatting pleasantly, stopping every little while for ferns and mosses. Suddenly Helen said:

“It is growing dark. The sun has set; did you know it? I never thought of such a thing, and we are not near home; where are we, anyway? I don’t remember this pond, do you?”

“I don’t remember any of them,” said Winnie. “The roads look alike to me in this country. Doesn’t Brownie know the way home?”

“Brownie is not to be depended upon,” said Helen gravely. “He thinks he knows everything, but he makes dreadful mistakes. That is the reason I wanted to take Gray. I do get so mixed up on these roads. This doesn’t look natural to me, but we will drive on a little farther and see what we come to.”

What they came to was a rough narrow path which Helen felt certain she had never seen before. She drove slowly, with a troubled face, uncertain whether it was best to go on or to turn around and try to find the way back. To add to their perplexity the short twilight had disappeared and it was unmistakably dark. No moon, and the trees so thick that the stars gave very little light. They had almost entirely ceased talking and were occupied, the one in trying to drive, the other in the vain hope of seeing something familiar.

“I can’t see at all.” she said at last. “What shall we do? I don’t know the way home.”

“Won’t your people come to find you when they see how dark it is?” asked Winnie.

“They think we are going to stay at Aunt Hattie’s,” said Helen, trying to speak bravely, but feeling her heart beat so hard that it seemed to her Winnie must hear it. Silence again for a few minutes, then Winnie exclaimed:

“There’s a dog barking. Somebody must be coming. Helen, aren’t you afraid?”

“I see a light,” said Helen, in a cheerful voice. “We are coming to a house. I am so glad.”

Was she? In a few minutes more she knew that she was sorry. A little old log cabin set down in the woods, no sign of civilization anywhere, unless that tumbled-down cabin stood for it, and half a dozen growling dogs. In the doorway stood the worst-looking woman the girls had ever seen, or rather had ever been able to imagine. Tall, gaunt, with a long thin chin, peaked nose, and strong red arms bare to the elbows. She was speaking to an uncouth man or boy around whom the dogs frolicked as though they knew him. The only relief to the picture was the sight of a very little girl who seemed not at all afraid of the dogs, and who welcomed the ragged, silly-looking man with a gurgle of laughter. At sight of the carriage the whole company, dogs included, turned and gave undivided attention.

What the girls saw.

“Lost your way, eh?” said the woman. “That’s bad such a dark night as this. I reckon the old man himself couldn’t find the road to Pine Loch tonight, and he knows most roads in this country. You’ll just have to stay all night. I reckon we can put you somewhere; you need daylight for getting home, that’s certain. You’re much as three mile out o’ your way.”

In a silence that was very near despair, the two girls stepped down from the phaeton, shrinking from the dogs in a tremble of terror, despite the woman’s loud assurance that they wouldn’t “hurt a hair of their heads.” No sooner were they inside the cabin than, but for the dogs, they would have rushed out again. Never had they dreamed of such a place for human beings to live; rough logs for walls, rough boards for floors; an open fireplace for a stove, over which a pot hung at this minute filled with a mixture so vile-smelling that the two frightened girls had almost to hold their breaths to keep from fainting. At least, that was the way it appeared to them; though really it was nothing worse than the smell of lard that was scorching. Utterly refusing to eat a mouthful of the black-looking bread that was urged upon them, and too frightened to do much besides looking at one another, they were thankful when the woman told them they looked “tuckered out” and she “reckoned they had better turn in for the night.” To this end she lighted what was really a pine torch, though the girls did not know it, and prepared to climb the staircase which was nothing but a ladder.

Meantime, the one she called her “old man” had come in and the situation had been explained to him, he nodding wisely at intervals and saying, “Just so, just so.”

Poor Helen thought he looked worse than his wife, and she followed the woman up the ladder stairs in haste to get away from the shaggy man. Oh, what would their mothers have thought if they had seen the room into which their cherished daughters were shown for the night! The bedstead was made of two boxes with slats across, and a tick filled with dried moss and leaves. There was a broken chair, and a box that served for a table. These were the only attempts at furniture. The one little window had no sash, nothing but a window shutter through whose half-open mouth the baying of those awful dogs could be distinctly heard.

“I reckon you dunno’ how to manage a torch,” said the woman, “so I won’t leave it for you, but the light will come up through the chinks in the logs enough for you to get into bed by. I reckon there’s covers enough. The nights are mighty cold nowadays.”

Not a word had the frightened girls to answer, but the moment the woman and her torch had disappeared down the ladder they flew into each other’s arms and sobbed as though their hearts would break.

“I’m afraid to go to bed,” murmured Winnie, “and I’m afraid to sit up. We can’t stay here, Helen. Let’s slip out and run away.”

“We can’t,” whispered Helen. “Those awful dogs—just hear them!” and she shook like a leaf. “Only think, Winnie, mamma supposes we are safe in bed in Aunt Hattie’s pretty room.”

PART II

“We will never be there again,” said Winnie, “nor at home either. These are robbers. I know they are by their looks. They have got us in here to steal our clothes, and my chain and your pin with a real diamond in it. They will take all we have and then they will kill us and our people will never know what became of us.”

“Oh, don’t!” said Helen in a whisper so loud that it was almost a shriek. “You are horrid and dreadful, Winnie Chester, to say such things.”

“Oh, dear! How cold I am. Let us lie down. We can’t be any worse off than we are now. We will keep all our clothes on and just lie down in each other’s arms, and we won’t sleep a wink, only just watch, and if we hear them coming we will jump up and yell with all our might; maybe somebody will hear us and come.”

The first part of this plan was at once carried into effect. Shuddering so that they could hardly stand they yet contrived to stumble over to the bed. Crawling between the covers that the woman had turned down and covering their heads, they gave themselves up to the most hearty crying they had done for years. Hark! There were sounds of persons moving about in the room below. The two girls hushed their sobs the better to hear and be ready for the screams they were resolved to give. It was not reasonable to suppose that anyone could hear them away out in the woods save the family of whom they stood in fear, still they meant to try it.

“Hush!” said Helen, in a warning whisper, though Winnie was as still as possible. The moving about had ceased and all was still for a moment. Then the gruff voice of the dreadful-looking old man could be distinctly heard through the wide cracks in the log house. This was what he said:

“Oh, Lord, here we are again at the end of another day, asking for the same things. Thou knowest we are in trouble, and that we have tried hard and made a failure of it. What we need now is help to be willing to fail. We’ve done our level best and we want to be willing to have Thee do just what ought to be done even if it does seem hard to us. Take care of us tonight and the young ones who lost their way, and give us strength to get through tomorrow, for Christ’s sake. Amen.”

The listeners upstairs were very still. The nervous tremblings and sobs had ceased. Presently Winnie whispered:

“I’m not a bit afraid, are you?”

“Not a speck,” said Helen bravely “I don’t think he’s such a very bad-looking old man, do you? And this bed is real clean if it is hard. I say, Winnie, let’s go to sleep.”

And they went.

Very early in the morning the baying of the dogs and the shouting of the little girl, to say nothing of the gruff voice of the man and the shrill voice of the woman, awakened our two travelers. The first thing they did was to look at one another and laugh.

“Isn’t it funny?” said Helen. “I’m glad mamma thinks we are safe at Aunt Hattie’s. What a dreadful night they would have had if they had expected us home. Winnie, what silly creatures we were to be so scared last night. Won’t we have a story to tell when we get home?”

Elated with this, they sprang up and set about making their toilets with all speed.

“Here you be as bright as roses,” was the greeting they received from the woman downstairs. She was frying pork, and the cabin was full of a greasy, smoky smell.

“Want some breakfast, I dare say,” she added, as the girls stood in doubt as to where to go or what to do. “Well, your pony has had his and feels all ready for another tramp, an’ Dick, he’s waiting to take you to the forks of the road and put you on the right trail; I reckon you will know your way from there. Dick is my boy. He ain’t as bright as some boys. He had a fall when he was a little fellow and hurt his head. He was the cutest young one up to that time that you ever see; since that he never could learn much. But he’s good, Dick is, an’ he knows the way to the forks of the road as well as the next one, and can be depended on. Now you just set by and get your breakfast. The rest of us eat a good while ago. You were so tuckered out last night I thought I’d let you sleep. I’m sorry we ain’t no milk to offer you, but we have to sell every drop of milk we have nowdays to make out the bill we owe for doctoring. Dick was dreadful sick, you know, and ran up a large bill, and we won’t have milk to pay for it after today either.” Whereupon she drew a heavy sigh.

“Why not?” ventured Helen. “Aren’t you going to keep your cow?”

“I reckon not, Miss. Our cow’s got to go to pay another debt. That’s what the man says. You see, we had sickness for a spell and got dreadful behind. He’s waited a good spell for his money and he says it’s no kind of use waiting any longer, and he’ll have to take the cow. The critter’s worth more money than that, but then, what can poor folks do?” The sentence closed with another sigh. “It’s forty dollars we owe, and my man has scoured the woods to raise it and he can’t, so old Brindle will have to go, an’ she’s worth sixty dollars, easy.”

The girls looked at one another with almost bewildered faces and said not a word. It was the first time it had ever dawned upon their mind that forty dollars or the want of it could make so much trouble. To these children of rich fathers it seemed a very small sum indeed.

The crisp fried pork and corn bread were really not so bad eating, after all, and the girls did the meal full justice. In less than an hour afterwards they were driving briskly along the road. Brownie pricked up his ears and discovered that his driver was in haste and there was no use in trying to mope. At the forks of the road Helen dismissed her guide, assuring him that she knew every step of the way now.

What a story they had to tell. It seemed as though they would never have done describing the road and the darkness, the cabin, the dogs, the torches, the fright, and the breakfast.

“Papa,” said Winnie, “they are in such trouble just for the want of forty dollars. Only think what a little bit of money to make so much unhappiness! Papa, can’t we help them in some way? They were so good to us.”

“I should think we might,” said papa heartily. “I am sure we ought never to forget the poor man’s kindness to our little girl.”

By afternoon it was all arranged. The two fathers had met and talked and planned, and Helen and Winnie were on the road to the cabin with a carefully sealed envelope in charge. This time Job, the coachman, mounted guard and kept a careful eye to the road. There was not the slightest danger that Job would lose his way, and the girls were very willing to have his company. Kind as the people in the cabin had been they had no wish to repeat the experiment of the night before.

Great was the astonishment of the woman (and the dogs) when the little pony carriage drove into the yard, and coming out to see what was wanted she saw the faces of her two guests.

“For pity’s sake!” she said. “Ain’t you two got home yet? But that ain’t the same critter you had this morning.”

“No, ma’am,” laughed Helen; “this is Gray. Oh, yes’m, we’ve been home. We just came to bring you this from our fathers. They say it is their ‘thank you’ for being so kind to us last night.”

“This” was the envelope in which were enclosed forty dollars in shining gold.


You’ll find more free stories by clicking on the “Free Reads” tab!

Free Read: Davie’s Witnesses

3 Jul

This month’s Free Read is “Davie’s Witnesses,” a story about a young boy, the 4th of July, and a difficult sacrifice.

It’s the Fourth of July and young Davie Carson wants to attend all the celebrations. He also plans to apply for a coveted job opening at the local book store. But no sooner does Davie arrive in town, than his plans begin to go terribly wrong; and Davie begins to wonder if he has missed the greatest opportunity of his young life.

You can read “Davie’s Witnesses” on your smart phone, iPad, Kindle, computer, or other electronic device.

You can also read it as an Adobe PDF document and print a copy to share with others!

Just click on the book cover to choose your preferred e-book format from BookFunnel.com and download the story for free!

Pansy’s Favorite Author: Amos R. Wells

22 May

Isabella Alden was one busy lady! In addition to writing novels and short stories, she wrote Sunday school lessons for teachers, and edited The Pansy magazine for children.

Along the way, she also wrote articles for many different Christian publications, including the monthly magazine Christian Endeavor World. Her good friend Amos R. Wells was the long-time editor of Christian Endeavor World, and through their mutual commitment to both the magazine and the Christian Endeavor movement, Isabella and Amos became good friends.

Isabella’s friend and fellow author, Amos R. Wells in 1901 at the age of 39.

Their friendship was strong enough to withstand a good bit of teasing. In 1902 Amos published a new book of poems for children, titled Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters.

Isabella promptly obtained a copy of the book and wrote a delightful tongue-in-cheek review , which was published in American newspapers on December 18, 1902:

Dear Mr. Wells:

I owe you a grudge; you have robbed me of an entire morning, and of no end of pocket money! Yesterday, just as I was seated in my study, all conditions favorable for work, the mail brought to me a copy of your latest book, “Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters.”

I meant only to look at the covers and the type, and wait for leisure; but I took just a peep at the first poem and indulged in a laugh over a droll picture or two, then “Carlo” caught me, and we went together, “over the fields in the sunny weather.” On the way I met the “little laddie of a very prying mind” and—you know the rest.

It is the old story; somebody tempted me, and I fell. How could I remember that the morning was going, and the typewriter waiting, and the editor scolding? I never stopped till I reached the suggestive lines, “Two full hours ago, believe me, was this glorious day begun.” Alas for me, the morning was gone!

How delightful in you to write that which the children and their elders can enjoy together, not one whit the less because, sandwiched all throughout the fun, are charming little lessons that will sink deep into young hearts, and bear fruit. How cruel in you to write a book which a million weary mothers will have to read, and re-read and read again?”

Yours sincerely,
      Isabella Macdonald Alden.

Amos Wells probably had a good laugh over Isabella’s clever “mock review” of his new book, and Isabella probably enjoyed the chance to support her friend and fellow author (and indulge in some good-natured teasing at the same time).

You can read Amos Well’s book, Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters and see if you agree with Isabella’s review. Click here to read the e-book version on Archive.org.

You can also read many of Amos’ other books online. Like Isabella, he was a prolific writer and published more than 60 titles during his lifetime. And like Isabella, he had a passion for properly educating the men and women who taught Christian Sunday-school lessons; he wrote many books, pamphlets, and articles on the topic. Click here to read some of Amos’ other titles. 

 

A Mother’s Day Free Read

8 May

This month’s free read is a lovely short story written by Isabella’s sister Marcia Macdonald Livingston.

When Miss Esther Harlowe decides to visit the residents of a nearby Old Ladies’ Home, she only wants to bring a little bit of cheer to the residents’ lives. But when she meets Katherine Lyman, she feels a instant bond with the elderly Christian woman. Soon, Esther looks forward to their visits just as much Katherine does, and Esther quickly discovers her life will never be the same again!

You can read “My Aunt Katherine” on your smart phone, iPad, Kindle, computer, or other electronic device. Just click on the book cover to choose your preferred e-book format from BookFunnel.com and download the story for free!

 

 

New Free Read: Easter Flowers

18 Apr

A big “Thank You” to Rebekah, a long-time reader of this blog, for making today’s Free Read possible.

Not long ago, Rebekah shared her collection of Isabella Alden books with us so we could make the stories available to everyone. Today’s post is the first of many from Rebekah’s collection, and it couldn’t be more appropriate.

The story is about a young girl named Claribel, who begins her Easter morning wanting to commemorate Christ’s resurrection by offering her most beautiful possession to the church. But a friend in need may cause Claribel to stray from her purpose.

You can read today’s short story here on the blog by scrolling down the page.

Or you can read “Easter Flowers” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, computer, or other electronic device. Just click on the book cover to choose your preferred e-book format from BookFunnel.com.

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Easter Flowers

Old as creation itself, yet new every spring-time! The coming forth from the dull, gray earth of the fresh green grass, the putting out of the leaves and the opening of the flowers.

And more than eighteen hundred times have the followers of our Lord Jesus Christ welcomed Easter Sabbath, which still comes to us with its fresh, new joy each year. It comes with the first spring flowers and we welcome its dawning, bringing into God’s house flowers from forest and the choicest of the conservatory. Claribel had been watching her one rosebush for many days, with alternating hope and fear. But her hopes were fulfilled, and on Easter morning she found one full-blown rose. With this single offering she started for church.

“Claribel,” said her mother, “will you have time to go around by Mrs. O’Neil’s and leave this jelly and blanc-mange for Kitty? She enjoyed that which I took to her Friday so much, that I would like her to have some more today. I’ve put in a bottle of beef tea. The doctor says if she can have something to tempt her appetite, and to take her mind from herself, she may get well again.”

“There’s plenty of time,” replied Claribel. “I’ll walk fast, and it is an hour to the time Miss Clark told us to be there with the flowers.” And Claribel tripped away with her little basket of dainties for her sick schoolmate, and her treasured rose. She stopped a moment to speak to Kitty, and tell her that mamma had sent her something nice for her Sunday dinner. But Kitty had only eyes and thoughts for the beautiful rose which Claribel had in her hand

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “What a sweet, lovely rose!”

“Isn’t it!” returned Claribel. “You know it is Easter morning and I am going to take this to the church! Miss Clark told us to bring all we could get and she will arrange them. I had only this one, but it is so beautiful that I think it will make up for there being only one.”

“Will you let me hold it a minute?” asked Kitty.

Claribel rather unwillingly resigned her treasure to Kitty’s care for a moment. If anything should happen to it!

“Oh, if I could only see the flowers!” said Kitty with a weary sigh. “But I don’t suppose I shall ever see another rose.”

Suddenly there flashed through Claribel’s mind what her mother had said about Kitty’s having something to take her mind from her own pain and sorrows and the thought followed, what if she gave her the rose? Would it help? Kitty seemed to enjoy just holding it in her hand for a few minutes. Should she leave it? Could she go to the church without a single flower? She had looked forward to this morning so eagerly, and watched so anxiously the budding of this rose. She had welcomed its opening with such joy, could she leave it here instead of taking it to adorn the house of God as she had intended? Ought she? Was it not a way of showing her love to Christ, bringing flowers to his house on this morning when his resurrection was to be commemorated? These thoughts darted through Claribel’s mind perhaps less clearly defined than I have written them down, but they were in her heart, and there followed another, even the words of Christ himself, uttered long ago, “I was sick and ye visited me,” and she said, with a lump in her throat:

“Kitty, one little flower won’t he missed very much and you may have the rose.”

“Oh, Claribel, how good you are! If I get well, and I do believe I shall, I’ll do something nice for you. This will make me happy all day.”

Claribel hurried away. She was afraid she would cry and spoil everything. Not that she was sorry she had given away the rose, not at all! But there was a sharp pain for a few moments over the thought that she had no Easter offering to bring. Had, she but known it, she had brought more than they all. I am afraid that Miss Clark herself could not have willingly given away her beautiful bouquet of rare green-house flowers, which she had bought out of her ample allowance. She and the girls wondered a little that Claribel had no flowers, for they knew about her rosebush, but the little girl had no intention of telling of her unselfish deed. But she always told her mother everything and when they were settled down for their Sunday afternoon talk, she related the story of her interview with Kitty.

Mamma’s eyes filled with tears, but she asked:

“But, Claribel, why didn’t you take your rose to church and have it sent to Kitty afterwards? You know the flowers are often sent to the sick people in the village.”

“I know, but you see, Kitty would have had to spend all the long, lonesome day without anything to comfort her. The flowers are to be distributed tomorrow morning, and I will ask Miss Clark to send Kitty some. My little rose will be wilted by that time.”
And thoughtful little Claribel was the bearer of Miss Clark’s pretty bouquet the next morning.

“Kitty had the most comfortable day yesterday that she has had in a long time,” said Kitty’s mother. “I thought in the morning she would have a hard day, but your visit seemed to set her right up; she just lay with the rose in her hand or on her pillow all day, and the doctor said last night that he had more hope of her than at any time since she was taken sick.”
Easter Flowers


If you enjoyed this short story by Isabella Alden, please be sure to share it!

 

Pansy’s Most Frequent Character

13 Mar

As a fan of Pansy’s books you may have noticed that Isabella’s characters frequently show up in different stories.

Eagle-eyed readers with good memories often spot them. For example, Brewster is a surname that appears in several of her books:

Her Mother’s Bible
Only Ten Cents
Aunt Hannah and Martha and John
Living a Story
Circulating Decimals

That’s a lot of Brewsters!

“Girl with Dog” by John White Alexander.

But the character that appeared most often in Isabella’s books wasn’t a Brewster at all; in fact, it wasn’t even a person!

The character Isabella wrote about most often was Bose the dog.

Sidney Martin’s Christmas (1879)

Bose first came to life in this short story when he interrupted a group of children singing Christmas carols in their neighborhood:

Just at that very point they stopped every voice, and little Gretchen, the youngest of the group, gave a little squeal that did not belong to the carol. It was plain that something had frightened them. Sidney crossed over to them. Just inside of the gate had appeared old Bose, the great house dog, and he was not a lover of their music, to judge by the low growls with which he greeted it.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Sidney, coming promptly into view. “I know old Bose and he knows me. He is an ill-mannered scamp, but he won’t hurt you so long as I am around. You sing away and I will stand guard.”

“Newfoundland” by Carl Reichert.

Christie’s Christmas (1884)

In this novel, Christie meets Bose when she’s trying to do a good deed, and comes upon an enormous dog that literally knocks her off her feet:

Bow, wow, wow! Here was a fellow who disputed the way with her, and came suddenly towards her, as if the least that he should think of doing was to swallow her at once.

Now it happened that Christie, unusually brave about most things, was dreadfully afraid of a dog.

She gave a pitiful little shriek, and the next thing she knew, she was picking herself out of the meanest looking mud hole she had seen in her trip. The dog had retired to a safe distance, and with his head hung down, and his silly little tail between his legs, was receiving a lecture from a woman with a frowzy head, and sleeves rolled up at the elbow, who appeared in the door of the little house.

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself!” she said, shaking her head. “A decent dog you are to be cutting up such tricks! Come along, child; what do you want? There’s no kind of need of your being afraid of that there dog. There ain’t a bigger coward in all Kansas than he is.”

Spun from Fact (1886)

In 1886 Bose made a brief appearance in Spun from Fact as a faithful dog mourning the loss of his young master, Frank:

I slipped out in the yard, and began to coax the old dog into a frolic. He got into a tremendous one at last, and bounded about me in such a ridiculous way that I laughed loud and long, and rolled on the grass in my glee. Just then I looked up on the piazza, and there stood my aunt! I bounded to my feet all in a glow of shame.

But she was smiling as pleasantly as I had ever seen her, although at that minute there were tears in her eyes, and she said, ‘Poor Bose will be grateful to you all day. He misses Frank very much. He used to frolic with him, you know. It is pleasant to hear a merry young voice again in the yard.’

A young girl and her Bernardiner.

Grandma’s Miracles; Stories Told at Six o’Clock in the Evening (1887)

In this book, Grandma Burton tells the story of Bose, a great, menacing beast who crossed her path when she was a child. She described how:

. . . a great white dog, that looked as ugly as his mistress, glared on me and growled. I was trembling so that I could hardly stand,

Just as I turned the corner by Mr. Willard’s place I heard a low growl, and there stood Bose eyeing me in a way to make my heart beat fast. I was dreadfully afraid of Bose, and with good reason: he had the name of being a very fierce dog; they kept him chained all day. I saw the chain around his neck then, but still I was afraid.

A 1913 calendar trade card, featuring two girls and a Newfoundland.

That terrifying dog with the chain around  his neck would later play a very important role in young Grandma Burton’s life.

Bose also made appearances in several short stories in The Pansy magazine.

Curiously, Isabella didn’t describe Bose in detail. In fact, Grandma’s Miracles is the only book that tells us his color (white).

A trade card from about 1900. Any guesses what this dog’s breed is supposed to be?

But we know Bose was a large dog, perhaps a shepherd, a collie, or even a mastiff, any of which are breeds known to be especially protective of children.

A Mastiff.

We also know that Bose often appeared menacing at first, only to show that underneath his barks and growls, he was a loyal friend with a heart of gold.

And that was true of many of Isabella’s human characters, too.

Have you ever known a great big dog that frightened little girls, as Bose did? Please tell us about it!


You can read more about the Isabella Alden books mentioned in this post by clicking on the book covers below:

    Image of the cover for Sidney Martin's Christmas

   

 

New Free Read: Living a Story

6 Mar

This month’s free read is a short story that first appeared in The Pansy magazine in 1893.

The story is about three school friends who pass a snowy afternoon by making up stories for each other. For two of the girls, the stories are simply fun diversions; but for Sarah Brewster, one of their stories strikes a little too close to home.

You can read “Living a Story” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device. Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

To begin reading, just click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

New Free Read: On Which Side Were They?

6 Feb

Not all of Isabella Alden’s stories had happy endings. This month’s free read is a short story Isabella wrote in 1893 when she was living in Washington, D.C. and very active in the Christian Endeavor Society. She deliberately left the ending of the story unresolved. Perhaps she was waiting to see how the real-life model for her story played out—or perhaps she wanted her readers to concentrate on the meat of her story, rather than on a happy ending. Either way, “On Which Side Were They?” is a thought-provoking story that’s as relevant today as it was the day it was first published.

You can read “On Which Side Were They?” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

To begin reading, just click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.    

The Search by Grace Livingston Hill

16 Jan

Isabella’s niece Grace Livingston Hill kicked off 1919 on a high note.

That was the year Grace’s novel The Search was published as a serial in a popular Christian magazine. The first chapter appeared in the January 1, 1919 issue.

Here’s the announcement the magazine ran the month before to notify readers about the upcoming serial (click on the image to see a larger version).

Although it’s fun to discover Grace’s stories in early newspapers and magazines, it’s even better when they’re accompanied by illustrations by the leading artists of the day.

John Cameron’s eyes met those of Ruth Macdonald. (From chapter 1 of The Search by Grace Livingston Hill.)

Artist William Charles McNulty (whose pieces are included in collections at The Metropolitan Museum of Art) illustrated three scenes from The Search for the magazine.

“I’d like to have you for one of my friends.” (From Chapter 3 of The Search by Grace Livingston Hill)

McNulty’s illustrations add a rich sense of time and place to the story, from the old-fashioned automobile Ruth drove, to the characters’ clothing, and the quiet place John found (in chapter 4) to read Ruth’s letter.

He tore the letter open and a faint whiff of violets floated out to him. (From chapter 4 of The Search by Grace Livingston Hill)

Later that same year, The Search was published in book form by Lippincott, and was well received by Grace’s fans; but the magazine version remains special, because of its illustrations.

If you haven’t read The Search, you’re in luck! You can read the e-book for free on your tablet, phone, Kindle or computer!

Amazon.com offers the e-book book at no charge. Just click on the banner below to begin reading:

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Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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