Morning-Glories And Other Stories – Louisa May Alcott
‘Morning-Glories, And Other Stories’ is another collection of short stories, all of them written by the author of ‘Little Women’, Louisa May Alcott. The stories are mainly intended for young readers, but are also very charming for adults. Among the included tales are works like ‘A Song for a Christmas Tree’, ‘Morning-Glories’, ‘The Rose Family’, ‘Poppy’s Pranks’ and many more.
Morning-Glories And Other Stories.
Excerpt from the text:
NED, Polly, and Will sat on the steps one sunshiny morning, doing nothing, except wish they had something pleasant to do.
“Something new, something never heard of before,—wouldn’t that be jolly?” said Ned, with a great yawn.
“It must be an amusing play, and one that we don’t get tired of very soon,” added Polly gravely.
“And something that didn’t be wrong, else mamma wouldn’t like it,” said little Will, who was very good for a small boy.
As no one could suggest any thing to suit, they all sat silent a few minutes. Suddenly Ned said, rather crossly, “I wish my shadow wouldn’t mock me. Every time I stretch or gape it does the same, and I don’t like it.”
“Poor thing, it can’t help that: it has to do just what you do, and be your slave all day. I’m glad I ain’t a shadow,” said Polly.
“I try to run away from mine sometimes, but I can’t ever. It will come after me; and in the night it scares me, if it gets big and black,” said Will, looking behind him.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to see shadows going about alone, and doing things like people?” asked Polly.
“I just wish they would. I’d like to see ours cut capers; that would be a jolly new game, wouldn’t it?” said Ned.
No one had time to speak; for suddenly the three little shadows on the sunny wall behind them stood up straight, and began to bow.
“Mercy, me!” cried Polly, staring at them.
“By Jove, that’s odd!” said Ned, looking queer.
“Are they alive?” asked Will, a little frightened.
“Don’t be alarmed: they won’t hurt you,” said a soft voice. “To-day is midsummer-day, and whoever wishes a wish can have it till midnight. You want to see your shadows by themselves; and you can, if you promise to follow them as they have followed you so long. They will not get you into harm; so you may safely try it, if you like. Do you agree for the day to do as they do, and so have your wish?”
“Yes, we promise,” answered the children.
“Tell no one till night, and be faithful shadows to the shadows.”
The voice was silent, but with more funny little bows the shadows began to move off in different directions. The children each knew their own: for Ned’s was the tallest, and had its hands in its pockets; Polly’s had a frock on, and two bows where its hair was tied up; while Will!s was a plump little shadow in a blouse, with a curly head and a pug nose. Each child went after its shadow, laughing, and enjoying the fun.
Ned’s master went straight to the shed, took down a basket, and marched away to the garden, where it began to move its hands as if busily picking peas. Ned stopped laughing when he saw that, and looked rather ashamed; for he remembered that his mother had asked him to do that little job for her, and he had answered,—
“Oh, bother the old peas! I’m busy, and I can’t.”
“Who told you about this?” he asked, beginning to work.
The shadow shook its head, and pointed first to Ned’s new jacket, then to a set of nice garden tools near by, and then seemed to blow a kiss from its shadowy fingers towards mamma, who was just passing the open gate.
“Oh! you mean that she does lots for me; so I ought to do what I can for her, and love her dearly,” said Ned, getting a pleasanter face every minute.
The shadow nodded, and worked away as busily as the bees, tumbling heels over head in the great yellow squash blossoms, and getting as dusty as little millers. Somehow Ned rather liked the work, with such an odd comrade near by; for, though the shadow didn’t really help a bit, it seemed to try, and set an excellent example. When the basket was full, the shadow took one handle, and Ned the other; and they carried it in.
“Thank you, dear. I was afraid we should have to give up our peas to-day: I’m so busy, I can’t stop,” said mamma, looking surprised and pleased.
Ned couldn’t stop to talk; for the shadow ran away to the woodpile, and began to chop with all its might.
“Well, I suppose I must; but I never saw such a fellow for work as this shadow is. He isn’t a bit like me, though he’s been with me so long,” said Ned, swinging the real hatchet in time with the shadowy one.
Polly’s new mistress went to the dining-room, and fell to washing up the breakfast cups. Polly hated that work, and sulkily began to rattle the spoons and knock the things about. But the shadow wouldn’t allow that; and Polly had to do just what it did, though she grumbled all the while.
“She don’t splash a bit, or make any clatter; so I guess she’s a tidy creature,” said Polly. “How long she does rub each spoon and glass! We never shall get done. What a fuss she makes with the napkins, laying them all even in the drawer! and now she’s at the salt-cellars, doing them just as mamma likes. I wish she’d live here, and do my work for me. Why, what’s that?” And Polly stopped fretting to listen; for she seemed to hear the sound of singing,—so sweet, and yet so very faint she could catch no words, and only make out a cheerful little tune.
“Do you hear any one singing, mamma?” she asked.
“No: I wish I did.” And mamma sighed; for baby was poorly, and piles of sewing lay waiting for her, and Biddy was turning things topsy-turvy in the kitchen for want of a word from the mistress, and Polly was looking sullen.
The little girl didn’t say any more, but worked quietly and watched the shadow, feeling sure the faint song came from it. Presently she began to hum the tune she caught by snatches; and, before she knew it, she was singing away like a blackbird. Baby stopped crying, and mamma said, smiling,—
“Now I hear somebody singing, and it’s the music I like best in the world.”
That pleased Polly; but, a minute after, she stopped smiling, for the shadow went and took baby, or seemed to, and Polly really did. Now, baby was heavy, and cross with its teeth; and Polly didn’t feel like tending it one bit. Mamma hurried away to the kitchen; and Polly walked up and down the room with poor baby hanging over her arm, crying dismally, with a pin in its back, a wet bib under its chin, and nothing cold and hard to bite with its hot, aching gums, where the little teeth were trying to come through.
“Do stop, you naughty, fretty baby. I’m tired of your screaming, and it’s high time you went to sleep. Bless me! what’s Miss Shadow doing with her baby?” said Polly.
Miss Shadow took out the big pin and laid it away, put on a dry bib, and gave her baby a nice ivory ring to bite; then began to dance up and down the room, till the shadowy baby clapped its hands and kicked delightedly. Polly laughed, and did the same, feeling sorry she had been so pettish. Presently both babies grew quiet, went to sleep, and were laid in the cradle.
“Now, I hope we shall rest a little,” said Polly, stretching her arms.
But, no: down sat the shadow, and began to sew, making her needle fly like a real little seamstress.
“Oh, dear!” groaned Polly. “I promised to hem those handkerchiefs for Ned, and so I must; but I do think handkerchiefs are the most pokey things in the world to sew. I dare say you think you can sew faster than I can. Just wait a bit, and see what I can do, miss,” she said to the shadow.
It took some time to find her thimble and needles and spools, for Polly wasn’t a very neat little girl; but she got settled at last, and stitched away as if bent on beating her dumb friend.
Little Will’s shadow went up to the nursery, and stopped before a basin of water. “Oh! ah! ain’t this drefful?” cried Will, with a shiver; for he knew he’d got to have his face washed, because he wouldn’t have it done properly when he got up, but ran away. Now, Will was a good child; but this one thing was his great trouble, and sometimes he couldn’t bear it. Jane was so rough. She let soap get in his eyes, and water run down his neck, and she pinched his nose when she wiped him, and brushed his hair so hard that really it was dreadful; and even a bigger boy would have found it hard to bear. He shivered and sighed: but Jane came in; and, when he saw that the shadow stood still and took the scrubbing like a little hero, he tried to do the same, and succeeded so well that Jane actually patted his head and called him “a deary;” which was something new, for old Nurse Jane was always very busy and rather cross.
Feeling that nothing worse could possibly happen to him. Will ran after his shadow, as it flitted away into the barn, and began to feed the chickens.
“There, now! I forgetted all about my chickeys, and the shadow ‘membered ’em: and I’m glad of it,” said Will, scattering dabs of meal and water to the chirping, downy little creatures who pecked and fluttered at his feet. Little Shadow hunted for eggs, drove the turkeys out of the garden, and picked a basket of chips: then it went to play with Sammy, a neighbor’s child; for, being a small shadow, it hadn’t many jobs to do, and plenty of active play was good for it.
Sammy was a rough little boy and rather selfish: so, when they played ball, he wanted to throw all the time; and, when Will objected, he grew angry and struck him. The blow didn’t hurt Will’s cheek much, but it did his little feelings; and he lifted his hand to strike back, when he saw his shadow go and kiss Sammy’s shadow. All his anger was gone in a minute, and he just put his arm round Sammy’s neck and kissed him. This kiss for a blow made him so ashamed that he began to cry, and couldn’t be comforted till he had given Will his best marble and a ride on his pony.
About an hour before dinner, the three shadows and the children met in the garden, and had a grand game of play, after they had told each other what they had been doing since they parted. Now, the shadows didn’t forgot baby even then, but got out the wagon, and Miss Baby, all fresh from her nap, sat among her pillows like a queen, while Ned was horse, Polly footman, and Will driver; and in this way she travelled all round the garden and barn, up the lane and down to the brook, where she was much delighted with the water sparkling along and the fine splash of the stones they threw in.
When the dinner-bell rang, mamma saw four clean, rosy faces and four smooth heads at the table; for the shadow-children made themselves neat, without being told. Every one was merry and hungry and good-natured. Even poor baby forgot her teeth, and played a regular rub-a-dub with her spoon on her mug, and tried to tell about the fine things she saw on her drive. The children said nothing about the new play, and no one observed the queer actions of their shadows but themselves. They saw that there was no gobbling, or stretching over, or spilling of things, among the shadows; but that they waited to be helped, served others first, and ate tidily, which was a great improvement upon the usual state of things.
It was Saturday afternoon: the day was fine, and mamma told them they could go for a holiday frolic in the woods. “Don’t go to the pond, and be home early,” she said.
“Yes, mamma; we’ll remember,” they answered, as they scampered away to get ready.
“We shall go through the village, and Mary King will be looking out; so I shall wear my best hat. Mamma won’t see me, if I slip down the back way; and I do so want Mary to know that my hat is prettier than hers,” said Polly, up in her little room.
Now Polly was rather vain, and liked to prink; so she got out the new hat, and spent some time in smoothing her braids and putting on her blue ribbons. But when all was ready, and the boys getting impatient, she found her shadow, with a sun-bonnet on, standing by the door, as if to prevent her going out.
“You tiresome thing! do you mean that I mustn’t wear my hat, but that old bonnet?” asked Polly.